Woman sues Ohio school for stripping teen daughter in eighth-grade down to her underpants over vape pen

Woman sues Ohio school for stripping teen daughter in eighth-grade down to her underpants over vape pen
A woman sued an Ohio school after staffers stripped her teenaged daughter in the eighth grade down to her underpants while looking for a vape pen (Screenshot from WKYC)

WILLOUGHBY, OHIO: An eighth grade student's mother sued a middle school alleging that her daughter was forced to strip to her underpants by teachers searching for a vape pen.

The family of the unnamed middle-schooler filed a federal lawsuit against the Willoughby Eastlake Schools Board of Education and three East Lake Middle School staffers on December 28, 2022, in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. School Principal Colleen Blaurock, Nurse Megan Kuhlman and Nurse's aide Rosalyn Rubertino were the three school officials named in the complaint. The lawsuit obtained by Daily Mail, alleges violations of the child's constitutional rights, failure to train school employees and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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According to the lawsuit, the incident took place on September 7, 2022, when the eighth-grader arrived at the school and went directly to her gym locker to put away her belongings. The student reportedly had two lockers, one in the girls' locker room for her volleyball equipment and the other in the school's hallway. While the student was in the girls' locker room, another student, whose identity was withheld, approached her "to see and smoke her new vape pen." The eighth-grader bluntly said no.. Then, her friend asked her if she could leave a shirt and the vape pen in her gym locker. The suit claimed the student was "feeling uncomfortable but afraid to upset her friend, begrudgingly agreed," as per the Daily Mail.

Later that same day, Blaurock pulled the eighth-grader out of her class and questioned her about the vape pen. According to the lawsuit, the student "was honest with Blaurock and told her the truth about what occurred in the girls' locker room that morning." The student reportedly told the principal that "the vape pen was not hers, that she did not have the vape pen and that she did not know where the vape pen was," the complaint stated. Blaurock then asked the student to guide her to the locker room, where she searched the lockers by herself.

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"Blaurock's searches all turned up empty, as the student had been honest about what had happened throughout the day," the suit reads, adding, "The principal subsequently admitted that the student was an honest girl who had a history of being truthful with her, and would not give up the search." After failing to find any inappropriate material in the locker room, the principal took the student to the nurse's office.

When the principal arrived at the nurse's office, she instructed Rubertino to search the student. "Blaurock knew that there was no reason for a strip search of the student as there was no imminent risk of harm to any students," the suit stated. Additionally, she also "knew or should have known there were less invasive means of searching for the vape pen if a more thorough search was necessary at all." Rubertino informed the principal that she would need to call senior nurse Kuhlman to ask about the search. She then called Kuhlman, who gave her the go-ahead, but she didn’t explain to Rubertino what a body search meant or how to conduct one on a student, the suit further stated.

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Rubertino asked the eighth-grade student to strip down to her underpants. "Rubertino was never, and has never been, trained by anyone at the Willoughby-Eastlake School District about conducting searches of students," the suit claimed, adding, "No policy or procedure existed at the Willoughby-Eastlake School District regarding conducting body or strip searches of the student."

The student even asked Rubertino why she was asking her to take off her clothes. "Feeling helpless, the student took off her clothes down to her underpants. Rubertino then looked at the student from numerous angles. Rubertino did not find anything. The student then asked Rubertino if she could put her bra back on,' court documents revealed. Rubertino told the student to wait while she was still undressed with no bra on, while she went outside the room to speak to the principal, the complaint stated. She then came back into the nurse's room and checked her eyes with UV light before allowing her to put her clothes back on.

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According to the court documents, "Kuhlman subsequently admitted that she would have never strip-searched the student in light of the circumstances presented. She said her prior procedure for searching was to ask the student to hold their clothes tight to their skin and if an object becomes visible under the student's clothes, ask the student to remove the item and hand it to her."

Following the incident, the child was suspended from school. Jarod Klebanow, the Managing Member of Klebanow Law LLC, who is representing the family, told Daily Mail that "the search was not reasonable." "Students and parents must be able to trust that public school districts and the adults working within those districts will do everything possible to protect the rights of our students, not violate those rights," Klebanow said, adding, "In this instance, the district and each of the adults involved in this case failed. People say time heals all wounds, but it is important to remember that, almost always, a scar is left behind."

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The lawyer said that the student returned to school following the two-day suspension but said that he was "unsure about the status of the three school officials." When asked about how the girl was coping with the traumatic incident, Klebanow said, "As you can imagine, she is still struggling with what occurred. She has a strong support system at home which will hopefully help her continue to heal."

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