Monday, September 27, 2010

City councilman sues Springfield Public Schools over lockdown, search

A lawsuit filed today in U. S. District Court for Western District of Missouri charges Springfield Public Schools and the Greene County Sheriff's Department with violating students' rights during an April 22 lockdown drill at Central High School.

The action, filed by Springfield City Councilman Doug Burlison, his wife Melony and his stepson and stepdaughter, both Central High School students, alleges students were told to leave their third hour classroom and ordered ot leave all their belongings in their classrooms. While they were out of the rooms, the lawsuit says, officers and drug dogs went through the belongings.

Defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to Springfield Public Schools, include Superintendent Norm Ritter,  Central High School Principal Ron Snodgrass, and Greene County Sheriff James Arnott.

Following is the description of the drill from the lawsuit:

On or about Thursday April 22, 2010, C.M., (Burlison's stepson) then a freshman at Central High School, was in his third period classroom when an announcement was made over the school’s public address system by Defendant Snodgrass.

 Defendant Snodgrass announced that the school was going into “lockdown” and that students may not leave their classrooms.

At that time, deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were present at Central High School along with dogs.

On information and belief, the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were present at Central High School with the knowledge, consent and invitation of Defendants SPS, Snodgrass and Ridder, and the activities and conduct of the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were engaged in at the request of and with the knowledge of Defendants SPS, Snodgrass and Ridder.

About fifteen minutes after Defendant Snodgrass’s announcement, deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, with their dogs, entered C.M.’s classroom. The deputies ordered students and teachers to leave the room. Students were told not to take any possessions or effects, such as backpacks, notebooks and purses, with them but to leave them in the classroom.

 C.M. did as instructed, leaving his possessions in the classroom and going out into the adjoining hallway to wait. C.M. could not see into the classroom.

After approximately ten minutes, the law enforcement officers left the classroom and C.M. and his classmates returned to the room.

The condition of the effects C.M. observed when he reentered the classroom made it clear to him that the students’ effects had been searched by the law enforcement officials. Backpacks and other student belongings had been moved around, zippers had been unzipped and saliva on the effects indicated that the dogs had come in contact with the students’ belongings and effects.

 In particular, C.M. observed that although all the zippers on his backpack were shut when he left the room, when he returned the zippers on his backpack were open and items within the backpack had been moved. At least three other students in his third period class also pointed out that their effects, i.e., purses and backpacks, had been moved and the students observed signs indicating that police had rummaged through their belongings.

C.M. observed that the law enforcement officers and their dogs then moved on to another classroom. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that the law enforcement officers engaged in the same activities in most, if not all, of the other classrooms at the school.

 Defendant Snodgrass extended the time for third period that day so that the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office could complete searches of the student effects and classrooms at Central High School.

At about 11:00 a.m., Defendant Snodgrass announced to students that they should move to their fourth period class.

Plaintiffs allege, on information and a belief, that in conjunction with the search of students’ effects in classrooms, law enforcement officers guided dogs through the hallways of Central High School, allowing the dogs to examine lockers and students throughout the school. If a dog alerted on a student, police seized the student and conducted a full search of the student’s person and effects.
Burlison's stepdaughter arrived at the school during third hour, but was not allowed to enter the building, until fourth hour, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, Ridder indicated the search was not prompted by any incident, but was standard procedure at Central and other Springfield schools.

After Burlison spoke at a school board meeting and board members did not offer any response, he brought his action, which charges the school officials and the sheriff with violating the students' Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, as well as Missouri state statutes.

The Burlisons are represented by Springfield attorney Jason Umbarger, whom court documents indicate is working with the conservative Rutherford Institute.


Anonymous said...

Drugs are driving crime, illegal immigration, and are the largest threat to the youth in our nation.

Councilman Doug Burlison and his relative, State Representative Eric Burlison are what we get when we have a apathetic electorate.

If drug raids are necessary to root out dealers and illegal users at Central High School, or other schools, I support this law enforcemetn intervention.

My only advice to Douggie would be to take the credit cards away from his wife and pay his bills.

Anonymous said...

How would 7:43 like it if police and drug-sniffing dogs went through your home without your permission?

Sure, you say, I have no drugs in my home, so they can search it.

But the 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you how I would like it. If they produced a warrant, I'd be more than happy to step aside.

No, let me go one step farther. If I'm cooking meth and a danger to society, looks like the 4th Amendment does not come into play.

I live in a nice, middle-aged and 55 + folks. In April, two blocks away, the Sheriff's Department and a Drug Task Force kidked in the door at a home at 3:30 a.m. and busted a meth lab.

So, 3:41, it is cry baby, sniffling, ass-wipes like you who go out of your way to protect the guilty while we entrust law enforcement to find, apprehend, and build evidence to put these bastards, who you embrace, in prison.

So if you don't want drug-sniffin' dogs, dog sniffin' your ass, don't get involved in drugs.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for Mr. Burlison. The citizenry will only lose what freedoms they are willing to give up, and left up to right wingers we will soon give them all up.

I hope Mr. Burlison is successful in his lawsuit against the school and the high Sheriff.

Check out this comment...So, 3:41, it is cry baby, sniffling, ass-wipes like you who go out of your way to protect the guilty while we entrust law enforcement to find, apprehend, and build evidence to put these bastards, who you embrace, in prison.

Talk about arrogance and ignorance, unreasonable search and seizure is against the law. Its that simple.

David Rust

Anonymous said...

To 8:39:

But were any of these kids at Central cooking meth in their lockers?


It's one thing if police have probable cause that a crime is being committed. If so, they can get a search warrant.

But to go on a fishing expedition just to see if they can find something is a waste of police resources.

And how would you like it if police knocked down your door at 3:30 a.m. without a warrant, just to see what they can find?

P.S.: Your name calling shows a lot about you, doesn't it?