Student search being investigated

Published 11:23 pm Sunday, August 22, 2010

SARDIS (AP) — Authorities are investigating whether proper procedures were followed when students were searched at North Panola High School in Sardis.

The North Panola School District is under state supervision because of low test scores.

District conservator Oscar Love confirmed to The Commercial Appeal that a search took place this past Wednesday. He wouldn’t comment on which agencies were involved or say whether a particular incident prompted the search.

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‘‘We want to make sure it’s a safe environment for learning, so yes, there was a search,’’ Love said. ‘‘We won’t know more until an investigation determines details of what happened.’’

Linda Hall of Sardis told the newspaper that her son, a junior, was among the students searched after a law enforcement dog picked up a scent on a backpack.

‘‘The boys were taken into the boys’ restroom and the girls were taken into the girls’ restroom, and the principal had them take their shoes off and put their hands on their heads,’’ Hall said. ‘‘Then they were told to drop their pants and they were patted down.’’

Love would not characterize the search as a strip search or comment on whether proper policies were followed until the district completes its investigation.

Hall said she filed a report with the Sardis Police Department. Chief Marcel Jojola confirmed his department took a statement from Hall. The chief said that because Sardis police don’t provide security at the school, he knew only what Hall put in her report.

‘‘She was agitated and upset,’’ Jojola said of Hall. ‘‘Due to the fact that we have received information, we took a report and an investigator will check to see if anything is wrong.’’

A spokesman for the Panola County Sheriff’s Department said the department’s attorney was conducting an investigation and had no further comment.

Hall said she has four children in the school and will keep them at home until the situation involving her 17-year-old son is resolved to her satisfaction.

‘‘It was the first time something like this has occurred,’’ she said. ‘‘I think it was handled wrong all the way around.’’