By Ted Ryan
The Smithtown board of education said at last week’s meeting they want to remove a section of the district’s code of conduct that allows school officials to conduct strip searches in emergency situations.
The specific section of the code allows school administrators to perform a strip search when there is “probable cause to believe that there is an emergency situation that could imminently threaten the safety of the student or others.”
The current version of Smithtown’s code describes a strip search as one that requires a student to remove any or all of his or her clothing, other than an outer coat or jacket, socks, cap, shoes, or sweatshirt.
The board said they wanted to remove this from their code of conduct because it is against the district’s personal policy to perform strip searches.
“We don’t conduct strip searches here … there is an anti-strip search, anti-physical search policy in place,” school district attorney Eugene Barnosky said. “That’s always been the policy of this district, and it’s never been violated.”
This change was passed in 2001, two years after two students brought firearms into Columbine High School in Colorado and killed 12 classmates and one teacher.
Barnosky spoke on how Smithtown came up with a policy on strip searches after Columbine.
“Everyone got together, school boards, the school’s superintendent associations and put together this draft document — which ninety percent of the school districts on Long Island have adopted,” he said at the meeting. This update for strip searches was a statewide policy for New York, as a guideline for what the rules should be in the case of a student bringing a weapon to a school. The actual wording and execution of these rules are up to the schools — which is why Smithtown is changing its policy now.
This change in language still has to be approved with a vote during the July meeting.
Trustee Theresa Knox said this is not the end of the discussion.
“Indeed it [change in the code] will not be approved until the July meeting — and even at that time [it] could face amendment again,” she said, adding that whatever changes are put in place, the code will still “be in accordance with what the law is.”
These changes in the Smithtown district’s code of conduct are still awaiting approval for a meeting in July.