Sheriff Indicted for Invasive Body Searches of 900 High School Students

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
October 6, 2017US News
Sheriff Indicted for Invasive Body Searches of 900 High School Students
Pupils at Williamwood High School attend a biology class. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A Georgia Sheriff along with two of his deputies were indicted in a large-scale drug raid at a local high school that got out of control.

Students claim they were illegally searched and inappropriately touched on April 14, when 900 of them had their bodies examined by deputies. The entire school was placed on lockdown during the event, causing confusion among staff and students, Washington Post reported.

The Sheriff’s office had the names of 12 students suspected of dealing drugs. Only three of them were in school that day when 40 deputies raided the school and conducted searches for four hours.

Sheriff Jeff Hobby, the Sheriff of Worth County, Georgia, is now in hot water. He did not have a warrant but claims the school administration agreed to the searches, and so they were therefore legal. School officials had a different narrative.

“We did not give permission but they didn’t ask for permission, he just said, the sheriff, that he was going to do it after spring break,” Interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters told WALB. “Under no circumstances did we approve touching any students.”

In the aftermath of the search, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine students. Parents also filed civil complaints. The Sheriff’s office issued a statement that said the search was legal and that school staff were on board. The letter stated that everything was authorized, but it did mention some overreach.

“After the pat down was conducted it was discovered that one of the deputies had exceeded the instructions given by the Sheriff and conducted a pat down of some students that was more intrusive than instructed by the Sheriff.”

Students and parents feel that was not the only problem. The class-action suit and student interviews reveal the entire event was questionable, and that the intrusive nature of the searches went farther than the Sheriff’s office is willing to acknowledge.

“I don’t think anybody in the school system had any idea that it would be of the nature of what actually happened,” Tommy Coleman, a lawyer for the school district, told The Washington Post. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never heard of anybody doing that kind of thing.”

The students were taken out of class and lined up, separated by gender, and with their hands against the wall, the entire staff of deputies from Worth County conducted body searches of every student at the school that day.

Out of 40 deputies, the district attorney sought indictments on only five, plus the sheriff. But only two deputies and the sheriff were indicted, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tyler Turner and Deidra Whiddon, along with Sheriff Jeff Hobby were indicted. Indictments include violation of oath of office, false imprisonment, and sexual battery. The law enforcement powers of the three were suspended until the case is resolved.

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