Sheriff's Office To Pay $3 Million For Invasive Searches Of 850 High School Students

from the a-few-thousand-dollars-per-grope dept

It’s been barely a month since news came to us of the Worth County (GA) Sheriff’s Department’s search of an entire school’s worth of high school students. Over 800 students were searched without a warrant, subjected to invasive pat downs that included breasts and genitals by Sheriff Jeff Hobby and his deputies.

Sheriff Hobby thought there might be drugs in the school, but despite the search of hundreds of students and the use of drug dogs, no drugs were found. A class action lawsuit [PDF] alleging multiple rights violations brought by some of the students was filed in June. In October, Sheriff Hobby and two of his deputies were indicted for sexual battery and false imprisonment.

In a surprisingly quick turnaround, there’s already talk of a settlement, as Susan Hogan reports for the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, a legal advocacy group, the Southern Center for Human Rights, said a proposed $3 million settlement had been reached in the lawsuit, pending a judge’s approval.

That number has nothing to do with the severity of the violations, but rather is the limit of the sheriff department’s insurance policy. But it will be spread to cover a majority of the student body harmed by the actions of these law enforcement officers.

Each class member will receive a monetary award of between $1,000 and $6,000, with those students subjected to more invasive searches receiving higher amounts. Once any outstanding claims are resolved and attorney fees of 15% of the fund are paid, half of any remaining funds will be paid into a fund for the benefit of Worth County High School students.

This quick settlement can likely be chalked up to a handful of variables. One, Hobby and his deputies have been indicted, which gives more credence to the students’ claims their rights were violated. Two, the entire 4-hour lockdown was captured on the school’s surveillance cameras, all but eliminating narrative options for the law enforcement defendants. Three, Sheriff Hobby’s own statements in defense of his and his deputies’ actions make it very clear the sheriff supports the mass violation of rights through policies and actions.

The only reason Hobby didn’t pursue another warrantless search of the entire school’s student body wasn’t because of concerns about students and their rights, but because people were angry.

When asked about that previous search that came up dry, Hobby said he didn’t think that search was thorough, so he decided to do his own.

He said he believes there are drugs at the high school and the middle school, but also said that he will not do another search, due to response from community.

So, straight up, the sheriff believes he did nothing wrong. His deputies did nothing wrong. If anything’s wrong here, it’s the response from the community — people who apparently don’t understand civil rights are nothing more than obstacles that must be skirted or surmounted if we’re ever going to win this war on drugs.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Sheriff's Office To Pay $3 Million For Invasive Searches Of 850 High School Students”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It doesn’t actually make a difference that he found no drugs.

Even if he had found drugs on one or two students, that doesn’t justify his becoming the Henry Ford of sexual assault, groping 850 teens assembly-line style. None were suspects. None consented, as one does when they agree to be groped if they want to fly.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Being held on the lock down was an unlawful arrest. The students were not allowed to use the washrooms, congregate, go to classes, call their parents, etc. All that was illegal.

The students should still hold out for more; bankrupt the Sheriff and deputies. This was not done under any color of law, the taxpayers should not be paying the bill.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

you get the politicians you deserve and “Sheriff” is an elected office in most cases or appointed by an “elected” mayor or similar person. Either way a person directly influenced by election.

the taxpayers SHOULD be paying the bill, only the kids here are innocent. The voting fucks calling themselves the “adults” in that town should be fucked over hard for letting their sheriff do this.

If you want to keep going like this then you OWE the piper. It’s coming out of your ass in either lost economy or liberty.

I am sick and tired of people like you always trying to escape the taxman because you fail to grasp your responsibility in regards to how society is working where government is concerned. The bill will always come due and you can just keep sitting back without a care in the world to all of the injustice occurring in it never lifting a single finger.

TRX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Depends on how Georgia law works. In my state, minors have few rights to start with, and the school is de jure “in loco parentis”, and has extremely wide discretion as to what can be done to or with their charges.

I’m still having trouble with the “no drugs were found” part, though. Out of 850 students, I’d expect at least a dozen dealers and fifty or more people with a stash, judging by where I went to school. Unless their definition of “drugs” that particular day happened to be quite specific and they weren’t counting the usual pot, Percocets, and Ritalin.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You watch too much police-drama TV.

There are a few circumstances in which police can detain people for a reasonable amount of time – breathalyser tests, for example – without arrest.

But a lot of what you see on TV when police ‘hold’ people without letting them leave or issue statements like “don’t leave town” have no legal basis or authority behind them.

If police hold someone for an extended period of time without arrest outside a few very constrained circumstances, they are exposing themselves to charges of false imprisonment or similar.

Anonymous Coward says:

Search the sheriff department employees

Since they clearly have no problem with warrant-less searches, lets search the homes and vehicles of this department whenever we suspect that they might have drugs. Once per student right violated should work out to multiple times per employee per year over the next few years.

Oblate (profile) says:

The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

After the students receive the payouts, can we expect the sheriff to initiate a lengthy series of civil asset forfeitures from the students and their families? I would almost be disappointed in the sheriff if he didn’t try to reclaim that $3M (plus expenses), or do something equally stupid.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

No, it doesn’t. An indictment sounds big and scary, but it operates on the same evidence standard as an arrest does. All an indictment means is that when a prosecutor showed a panel of jurors incriminating evidence, the jurors agreed there was enough of it for an arrest and the filing of charges.

Even if convicted, the sheriff would not be required to resign, though if he’s convicted of a felony he’d be ineligible to possess a firearm, which might cramp his style as sheriff.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sucks

Firing them leaves open the door for their union to pitch a fit and get them re-hired, or for them to simply shift to another precinct and carry on, same as before.

No, you want to stop police from abusing their positions and authority you make fines like this personal. No more shifting it to the department/taxpayers, hit them in their wallets such that they are the ones paying for their actions. Do that and you can be sure that they’d learn real quick that actions have consequences, even if they do have a badge.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sucks

Civil asset forfeiture laws are carefully written to prevent We the Peasants from utilizing them to sue the property of criminals.

If not for that, any police department that declared no wrongdoing and no policy violations in a case that was later declared by a court to be a civil, statutory or constitutional rights violation would be vulnerable to having their assets seized.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sucks

It sucks that the taxpayers keep letting this happen to them.

Sorry did I say let? They practically “invite” it every election cycle. Citizens just pull their undies down and present while slapping their little asses!

Lets vote in the “tough on crime” one… he sounds like he knows now to clean up these streets! How many times has this been heard?

The more you treat suspects like guilty criminals the more every innocent person gets screwed! The more the “police” will treat you like peasants to be “told” how to live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Huh?

My assumption would be that anyone who did use drugs was smart enough to leave them safely at home. They wouldn’t have the chance to get high at school, and selling drugs at school would just be a flat out insane risk. It’d be much safer to just go over to someone’s house after school while their parents were at work.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Huh?

My assumption is that the students with the drugs are smart enough not to have them on their person or in their lockers, but rather in various stash locations around the school. It’s pretty basic stuff.

That zero out of 850 had anything at all is like a statistical anomaly. Perhaps they picked the wrong day of the week (monday instead of friday, as an example) as everyone had depleted their supplies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Huh?

That zero out of 850 had anything at all is like a statistical anomaly.

Sure. Let’s think about that for a second…850 kids were able to collectively outwit a sheriff’s department.

If that is, in fact what happened, the sheriff’s department is in serious need of an enema. Because they really suck at what they do.

No One says:

You Are Missing......

Part of the story.

When he searched he had a list of 13 students that he suspected had drugs, but only 3 were in school that day.

Two previous searches by other departments came up empty, so how did he know that the lost of 13 was good?

His son was busted by the feds about 2 months ago for drug dealing.

I suspect he found out his son had drugs, forced to come up with the names of the people at school that had drugs, thus the list of 13. Trying to protect his son a bit, he gives the list to a different department to have them search, on a day his son is not in school.

So either his son warned the others and they kept everything away from the school, or they already figured out that schools can be searched and don’t deal on or around school grounds. Or both.

So these other bad students got his little boy into drugs, and he is going to do something about it. Now the feds bust the son for DEALING not just possession. The feds start talking to the son at the nearest LEO office, the sheriff’s office. Mom and Dad come in and bust up the interview. I’m sure the DEA agent was pissed about that one and now is having other agencies dig into the sheriff.

The other departments that he got to do the first searches are likely not happy that he didn’t give them the whole story and made them look stupid.

A major cluster-f***

No One says:

Re: School

From what I have been reading, the school had no clue this was going to happen or that they would feel up all the students.

I bet they thought, OK, here they come again with this list of bad students, and they will run a drug dog down the halls and by all the lockers just like the other two departments did.

The sheriff seems to think what he did was legal because the school admins were present at the time. He is confusing a search of a person with the search of school property, say a locker of a student they suspected or a dog hit on.

See my above about his son.

If he wanted to search the 13 students he suspected, get a search warrant. However he would have to cough up some info about why he suspected the kids and where he got the information. He was trying to keep his son out of it.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: School

The school was not complicit. The Sheriff conducted the search without the schools permission. The Principal most likely could have asked them leave and return with a search warrant. They most likely have an agreement of cooperating with police in reducing drug abuse in the school.

However, if you ever feel the police are in the wrong, I don’t suggest you walk up to them and tell them to stop. You will most likely find yourself “obstructing police”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Man..

citizens are cowards who lost theirs collective minds a long time ago. they want the police to keep them safe so they don’t have to contribute to the safety of society itself. See trouble better let the law man handle it and run/hide until the problem is over. better tattle on your fellow citizens to 911 every time you see them doing something because you don’t want to let a terrorist forget your fries with your McDonald’s order!

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Man..

they want the police to keep them safe so they don’t have to contribute to the safety of society itself. See trouble better let the law man handle it and run/hide until the problem is over.

This is an example of what is known as "specialization". It is the basis of civilization, stretching all the way back to the first time some people were able to spare time to work on things other than the pursuit of food and shelter.

This happens to be one of the cases where the simple, naive way of implementing "some people specialize in X" leads to undesirable side effects, but the solution to that is to use a different implementation, not to go back to everyone doing X for themselves.

discordian_eris (profile) says:

Re: Hmmm

And the worst part? The parents are paying for their own kids to be molested. Less than 21K people in the county, 35% under 18. That’s a lot money to pay for a crooked sheriff, on a per capita basis. Your kid gets $3,500, but your family has to pay $1000+? Not worth it.

If the company insuring the county was smart, they would sue the sheriff and his deputies, get them stripped of immunity, and take everything from them. THAT will force departments everywhere to straighten up; if that’s the only way to be insurable.

ECA (profile) says:


Hate that return key..

I still have a funny feeling that “YOU CANT BE THAT STUPID”, is a fair judgement of what is happening AROUND this country..

Something is making OUR police force PARANOID and PRE-PREPARED for something to happen in the future..

From selling MILITARY Goods and Vehicles to the police Force at BELOW COST/FREE Willingly BEING STUPID, and Shooting people and Dogs for NO reasons..
How many cop cars needed to STOP a speeder?
A person reaching for Gun permit, gets SHOT??
How many bullets to STOP a person??
PURPOSELY instigating a situation THAT DIDNT NEED TO HAPPEN..
20+ year Veteran Police officer SHOULD KNOW THE LAWS..

YES, some of this has been going on FOREVER, and we are seeing MORE of it because EVERYONE has a cellphone..

A person that represents the LAW, and does something WITH the credibility of THAT position, OF HIS own justification SHOULD be Sued PERSONALLY.. NOT threw the State funded Insurance WHICH IS NEVER ENOUGH..esp after 2-3 incidents..the STATE PAYS IT..not the officers..

ryuugami says:


Each class member will receive a monetary award of between $1,000 and $6,000, with those students subjected to more invasive searches receiving higher amounts.

So now the molested students get to explain in detail exactly how invasive the molestation was, to find out if they were or weren’t molested enough. Great. I’m sure that won’t be traumatic or anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Allowing the TSA to grope you is voluntary; there is no right to fly.”

You deserve no rights for having said that and exactly why shit like this is happening, I would rather have this sheriff than a fellow citizen that explains away liberty like obedient & cowardly cattle. People like you helped make this sheriff and the injustice to these children a reality and you don’t event know why you are guilty! You are blissfully ignorant of the wretch you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Among the most abused words are “voluntary” and “implied consent” when it comes to having your rights violated.

One could argue that walking in New York city is voluntary. If you don’t want to be stopped and frisked by police, then don’t walk the streets of NYC!

If there is no constitutional “right” to travel by air without being groin-searched, then there is also similarly no right to travel by foot (or any other method). If authorities can ignore the Fourth Amendment anywhere, then they can ignore it everywhere.

Rekrul says:

This may a dumb question, but I honestly don’t know; When you sue someone and they offer a settlement amount, are you free to outright reject the offer and drag them into court? I know most people settle, but if you feel making an example of them is more important, can you force the issue and make them answer the accusations in open court?

Also, if you want to go the settlement route, can you ask/demand other things besides money? For example, can you make it a condition of accepting the settlement that the person you’re suing has to admit wrong-doing, or even resign? I know they’re not obligated to agree to such terms, but is it allowed to ask for such things either in addition to or instead of money?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Also: Can class action lawsuits like this one come with non-disclosure agreements? As in “Any student and their parents accepting the settlement money must not talk about the incident, especially when Sheriff Hobby and his deputies campaign to keep their jobs or receive their oddly-traditional-in-these-cases bonus for a job well done?”

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

One Possible Class-Action Glitch

In many cases, the class is not a “mandatory” class. That means that there is a method for potential class members to “opt out” of class settlements or class verdicts.

Such excluded persons may either bring their own actions, or not do so. But in either case, if they have properly opted out of the class, they are not bound by its resolution.

Each separate action would likely be barred by whatever the sovereign immunity limit is in Georgia. Surely the (now suspended) sheriff and his catamites would be pleased to defend separate actions. It is possible that they might even be personally liable, depending on the facts and law in Georgia.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...