Parents say middle school students were searched illegally, threaten legal action

LEGAL

HOPE MILLS, N.C. — Parents at a Cumberland County middle school are outraged because they say their children were illegally searched Friday morning on campus.

Hope Mills Middle school officials searched students as they arrived, and according to several parents, they were not notified about it.

“There was a line outside, and I went in it, and I didn’t know what was going on,” said Daiana Johnson, a student. “I just looked in the locker room for a second and saw the teachers in there. I didn’t think of it that much and then I got my phone out and tried to text her because I had figured out that they were searching people,”.

The principal sent a letter home with students to give to their parents, alerting them about this morning’s random search, which was supposed to be conducted by the school’s safety and security department and local law enforcement. Some parents said they never received the note and would never have consented to the search.

Letter to Hope Mills Middle school parents informing them about this morning's search.

“They did not have my support; if they would have called and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to search your child, do we have consent,’ I would have come up and witnessed why they wanted to search my child,” said Wayne Melvin, a parent. “If they had reasonable doubt as she committed a crime or had something on her that they was suspicious of, then I would have allowed them to search.”

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Officials say it didn’t authorize the search and would have never conducted one without probable cause.

Asked about the search, Lindsay Whitley, Cumberland County Schools spokesman, issued this statement:

District officials recently learned about a security screening that took place at Hope Mills Middle School this morning. Around 500 students are enrolled at the school. Most of the students were required to go through the security screening process once arriving at school, with the exception of students who arrived late and those with special circumstances, e.g., medical, developmental, etc. School officials announced the possibility of such a screening earlier this week via a letter sent home with students and followed up with a phone message to families after today’s screening occurred.

In alignment with Board Policy 4342 Student Searches, school officials may conduct certain types of general, suspicionless searches in schools to help maintain a safe, drug-free, and weapon-free learning environment.

According to a school administrator, this particular security screening was initiated based on an uptick in negative student behaviors related to vaping and recent discoveries of weapons on campuses. District officials are evaluating this situation to ensure appropriate procedures were followed and will share any findings with school officials to help improve future security screenings.

Parents say that some students were traumatized by what happened this morning and some are considering taking legal action against the school system.

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