N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for investigation after four Black girls claim strip search at Binghamton school

East Middle School, however, asserts that there is no evidence that a strip search ever occurred.

andrew Cumo thegrio.com
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at Barnard College. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


 

On Wednesday, New York state Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for the state’s Education Department to launch an investigation into the discriminatory and humiliating ‘strip search’ of four 12-year-old Black girls at East Middle School in Binghamton, New York, The NY Times reports.

“The allegations that 12-year-old girls were strip searched for drugs after being perceived as ‘hyper and giddy’ at a Binghamton middle school are deeply disturbing and raise serious concerns of racial and gender bias. Asking a child to remove her clothing — and then commenting on her body — is shaming, humiliating, traumatic sexual harassment,” said Cuomo in a statement. “In New York, we have zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind, especially in our schools, and we stand with those who are calling for clarity on this troubling incident.”

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“I have directed the New York State Police to offer their assistance to local authorities in the investigation into these allegations, and I call on the State Education Department to launch an investigation into this incident.

The Governor went on to use the incident as an example of why there is a more urgent need to extend legislation around Human Rights Law Protections to public school students. Doing so would ensure that the State Division of Human Rights has the ability to investigate reports of harassment and discrimination in the state’s public schools.

“All students in the State of New York should have the right to pursue an education free from discrimination,” said Cuomo.

The case drew national outrage, after a local community advocacy group, Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, reported that the girls were questioned and searched by a school nurse after appearing to be “giddy” and “hyper” during lunch. Using the hashtag “#BelieveBlackGirlsBCSD” on social media, P.L.O.T. was able to provide additional details of the incident, including claims from the girls that they were asked to remove some of their clothing and they describe the experience as “humiliating.”

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During a recent school board meeting, community members staged a protest demonstration and called for answers about what went wrong and why parents weren’t notified. The school board denies any such search took place and issued a statement asserting the school’s right to provide medical attention to students they observe behaving in unusual ways.

“When conducting medical evaluation, it may require the removal of bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be assessed. This is not the same as a strip search.”

Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the district is working with State Police and local leaders.

“We are committed to preserving public trust and we welcome full and objective assessments,” the school district said.

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The Binghamton City School District said in a statement there was “no evidence” found that a strip search occurred and said there were inconsistencies in the girls stories. They also claimed to have conducted a routine medical assessment “out of concern for the girls’ health and safety,” without parental consent.

But Governor Cuomo is calling for more clarity. Also, the district hired a third-party law firm to further investigate the incident.

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