Binghamton, NY (WSKG) — There’s outrage over an incident between staff members at Binghamton’s East Middle School and four black students. The girls say they were strip searched. The district claims it wasn’t a strip search; it was a medical evaluation.
Many community members are furious. National media picked up the story. Now, later today, residents will rally at East Middle School after dismissal.
Last week, dozens of people packed the Binghamton City School District School Board meeting to say “we believe you” to the girls. Among them was County Legislator Mary Kaminsky and the head of the Broome Tioga NAACP Micah Barreiro.
“It’s on us. Go to the damn school. You a parent? Make yourself known. Be annoying as hell,” said Kymel Yard, director of teen services with The Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton.
The parents say staff members were involved with a strip search of their daughters, who were reportedly acting hyper, giddy and suspected of possessing drugs. According to district policy, a strip search is almost never justified. The principal has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
After the meeting, one of the girls described her experience. She’s 12 years old, so WSKG isn’t giving her name.
“She was like, ‘can you pull your pants down for me?’ And I was like, ‘yeah’ and I pulled them down to my ankles. And I had leggings on. And she was like, ‘do you have anything else on you?’ I was like, ‘if I had anything else on me, you would see it.’ My leggings were tight. And she was like, ‘can you pull them down a little bit for me?’ So I pulled them down under my knees.”
The story developed throughout the week.
The local racial justice group, Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT), was involved from the start, urging community members on Facebook to pack the school board meeting, rally outside East Middle School and change profile pictures to an outline of four girls.
By Wednesday, the school district issued a press release:
BCSD Press Release1.23.19 (1) by on Scribd
The story picked up national attention in the Associated Press, Washington Post, the Huffington Post and others.
But by Thursday, the school district released another statement, saying it had wrapped up its investigation:
BCSD Press Release1.24.19 by on Scribd
The term “strip search” isn’t the point, according to Fordham University Law professor Daniel Capra.
“The term strip search is not as important as the seriousness of any particular intrusion” and whether the level of intrusion matches the amount of proof the school had, said Capra.
On Friday, the girls’ mothers posted a letter on PLOT’s Facebook page, standing by their daughters.
“Only in the African American community do they stereotype our children that way. ‘Oh, there under the influence of drugs’” said Zulayka Mckinstry. “Like, where did you get drugs from that? Okay, if you thought they was under the influence, when did a strip search make it better?”
Many attendees at last week’s school board meeting said it wasn’t lost on them that the incident happened on January 15th, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
That frustration will likely come through at this afternoon’s rally at East Middle School.