Strip searches of alleged Las Vegas high school students, teacher says

A Las Vegas junior high school teacher says she is facing retaliation after reporting concerns in February about students being strip searched.

Shushan Sadjadi, who teaches math at Garside Junior High School, told the Review-Journal that students voluntarily told him about uncomfortable searches by administrators and staff after suspicions of marijuana use.

Students said they had to expose their body parts, sometimes to staff of the opposite sex, she said.

“I felt it was a major problem,” Sadjadi said. “Students should not be afraid to go to school or to go to the bathroom for fear of being strip searched.”

His claims have not been substantiated by the school, according to Tod Story, the senior spokesperson for the Clark County School District.

“They investigated and were unable to verify what the teacher was alleging,” he said. “I understand there were no strip searches.”

SDCC regulations state that strip searches can only be carried out in “extraordinary circumstances when necessary to avoid an immediate threat or danger to safety, welfare or health and less intrusive means do not are impractical”.

Sadjadi is now being disciplined by Garside administrators for various alleged teaching infractions, including being late for work, giving out his home phone number to students, and not following proper policies with bank funds. of his student entrepreneur club, according to documents provided to the journal. -Newspaper.

Sadjadi said she reported the strip search issues to Garside administrators on the morning of February 11 after students first told her about the searches the day before. She claims Principal Marbella Alfonzo and Vice-Principal Matthew Spurk were initially slow to respond to her concerns.

Alfonzo responded that day that all directors were on vacation and not available to meet, Sadjadi said. The teacher said she reached out to Spurk after school had finished and he agreed the allegations were “alarming and a major concern”. But Spurk told Sadjadi to stop pursuing the matter on her own and that Alfonzo would take care of it.

Alfonzo and Spurk did not respond to requests for comment.

Sadjadi has worked at Garside since October as a seventh and eighth grade teacher and has previously taught math in New York, Miami and the San Francisco Bay Area. She also holds a law degree but is not licensed to practice as a lawyer in Nevada.

Report allegations

His attorney, Brian Berman, described his treatment by Garside administrators as a case of a whistleblower being punished for doing the right thing.

“There is every indication that before she reported the alleged incidents, Ms Sadjadi was seen as a model teacher who went the extra mile for her students,” he said. “As soon as she reported these extremely disturbing allegations, everything changed. It appears that the administration is retaliating against her for bringing her concerns to light.

Story declined to respond to allegations of retaliation, saying he could not comment on personnel issues.

In a 20-page outline detailing her efforts to report the allegations to her bosses, Clark County Child Protective Services and the police, Sadjadi said about 18 of her 150 students had shared stories with her. stories of strip searches on February 10 and 11. Some of the stories were first-hand accounts and others were from students who said they had heard of other students’ research.

Some boys described being told to drop their pants halfway and pull up their shirts halfway, then being told to roll up the top of their underwear, Sadjadi said. The girls were asked to pull their shirts up around their necks like a cape and pull their bras away from their bodies, she told the Review-Journal.

Sadjadi told school officials she would not provide the names of students who knew about the searches because they wished to remain anonymous. But she said she had forwarded ‘alarming emails’ she had received from students to an associate superintendent who had traveled to Garside to speak to students.

Story said Garside administrators found no one to substantiate the strip search allegations.

But Berman disputed that account.

“We understand that students were required to complete incident reports, and we understand that incident reports confirm that students were strip searched,” he said. “We are therefore puzzled as to why the administration is claiming that the allegations are unfounded.”

A second eighth-grade teacher reported to Alfonzo that a student had been frisked at the start of the school day on Feb. 11, according to an email obtained Thursday via a document request.

“He said he was made to take his shirt off and it made him feel uncomfortable,” the email reads. “Because it’s new, he didn’t know who searched it and he didn’t really want to talk about it either.”

Berman suggested that administrators had no choice but to deny that the searches took place.

“They can’t admit it because they would admit responsibility,” he said. “If they conducted their own investigation before speaking to child protective services, they likely violated state law. They have 24 hours to report it. They can’t sit on the information, do their own investigation and then report it.

Reported searches in bathroom, classroom

The strip searches were allegedly carried out in at least one bathroom and one classroom reserved for the Scholar Success Office (SSO) in Garside, according to Sadjadi.

Although the office has a positive title, it is dedicated to dealing with disciplinary matters and the internal detention of students, Sadjadi said.

A Garside ‘guidance document’ for teachers says students can be referred to SSO for things like truancy, fighting, abusive language, dress code violations, bullying and vandalism .

Sadjadi said she also reported what she heard to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, but was referred to school district police. She said she reported the allegations to school police and called a CPS hotline, but had not heard from the agencies.

A school district police spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said he could not confirm whether the CPS had investigated the allegations, but added that school officials were required to report cases of sexual abuse. at the agency.

Story said he was told child protective services could not verify the allegations.

Sadjadi said she came forward publicly because she believed nothing was being done about the allegations.

“I know a lot of teachers wouldn’t necessarily be willing to risk their jobs and risk everything for this to become public,” she said. “And I’m willing to do that because I think it’s an important cause that needs to be addressed. And if the CCSD is consistently doing something wrong, then it needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed. quickly.

Sadjadi said the retaliation against her was relentless.

She received a disciplinary notice on March 15, signed by Alfonzo, reprimanding her for a long list of “unprofessional conduct” and “neglect of duty”.

Kept with names

The misconduct included interviewing students about the strip search allegations before speaking to administrators at Garside. The notice calls the searches “security searches” and criticizes Sadjadi for not giving the names of the students to the administrators.

Sadjadi told administrators she wanted permission from students before giving their names, according to the two-page document.

She was ordered in the notice to stop interviewing students and conduct investigations on her own beyond the scope of her teaching duties.

The ACLU of Nevada, a nonprofit that defends the individual liberties of citizens, is concerned whether the 4th Amendment constitutional rights of Garside students were violated during the alleged strip searches.

“From our perspective, these are serious allegations,” said Chris Peterson, the group’s chief legal officer. “There are limits to what a school can do when it comes to finding students. We can hold accountable those who undermine the educational environment.

Peterson urged any students who have been strip searched without cause to contact the ACLU.

Sadjadi, meanwhile, remains defiant.

“Students are waiting to hear if their very serious concerns are going to be acknowledged and addressed, but somehow, make no mistake, this is an important teaching moment for all of us,” said she declared.

“Students and their families will see firsthand how the Clark County School District responds to these types of serious allegations.”

Contact Jeff German at [email protected] or 702-380-4564. Julie Wootton-Greener is on leave. His email is [email protected] To follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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