Wisconsin state legislators have introduced a bill that would make some invasive searches of students a crime. The proposed law was inspired by searches for vaping products conducted by a school administrator in the small town of Suring last year.
In January 2022, Suring School District Superintendent Kelly Casper was accused of forcing students aged 14 to 17 to remove their clothes down to their underwear so Casper could search for vaping devices. The students were not told they could refuse to be searched, and parents were not notified until after the searches were conducted.
Casper found one device when it fell from a female student’s bra during the search. Another girl was forced to remove her clothing and be searched even after she admitted she had been vaping and turned over her device to the school superintendent. Parents of the students were upset and concerned. Some threatened to sue Casper and the school district.
Casper was eventually charged with six counts of false imprisonment, after the Oconto County District Attorney determined that the searches didn’t meet the state criminal standard for illegal strip searches because the students’ genitals were not exposed. A judge later dismissed the false imprisonment charges, and Casper agreed to resign from her job in Suring.
The new bill, introduced this week by Republican State Senator Eric Wimberger and State Representatives Elijah Behnke and David Steffen, would expand the definition of an illegal strip search to include searches like those done in Suring. Rather than just including searches in which a person’s genitalia or private areas are touched or exposed, the proposed law would add exposing or touching underwear-covered private areas to the definition of a strip search, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“The allegations surrounding this incident are a clear violation of basic privacy expectations, and the fact that this involves minors is even more concerning,” Rep. Steffen said. “We have joined with parents in demanding that these types of strip searches performed by teachers or school staff never happen again in Wisconsin.”