Worth High School Lawsuit

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 1 of 36

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ALBANY DIVISION
________________________________
)
K.A., a minor, by and through her next )
friend and guardian, Lisa Adams,
)
)
T.S., a minor, by and through her next )
friend and guardian, Gigi Smith,
)
)
B.S., a minor, by and through his next )
friend and guardian, Figen Guillot,
)
)
S.M.,
) CLASS ACTION
)
A.W., a minor, by and through her next ) CIVIL ACTION NO. ______
friend and guardian, Rhonda Norris,
)
) JURY TRIAL REQUESTED
D.J., a minor, by and through his next )
friend and guardian, Lucetta Jordan,
) COMPLAINT
)
K.P.,
)
)
L.H., a minor, by and through her next )
friend and guardian, Joey Haire,
)
)
J.E., a minor, by and through his next )
friend and guardian, Joelandon Dixon, )
)
on behalf of themselves and a class of )
similarly situated persons,
)
)
Plaintiffs,
)
)
v.
)
)
JEFF HOBBY, Sheriff of Worth
)
County, Georgia, in his individual
)
capacity,
)

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 2 of 36

)
JOHN BRANNEN, Deputy,
)
Worth County Sheriffas Office,
)
in his individual capacity,
)
)
RAY GREENE, Deputy,
)
Worth County Sheriffas Office,
)
in his individual capacity,
)
)
TYLER TURNER, Deputy,
)
Worth County Sheriffas Office,
)
in his individual capacity,
)
)
BRANDI WHIDDON, Deputy,
)
Worth County Sheriffas Office,
)
in her individual capacity,
)
)
JOHN or JANE DOES 1-25, Deputies, )
Worth County Sheriffas Office,
)
in their individual capacities,
)
)
Defendants.
)
________________________________ )
COMPLAINT
Plaintiffs K.A., T.S., B.S., A.W., D.J., L.H., and J.E., by and through their
next friends and guardians, and S.M. and K.P. (collectively, aPlaintiffsa), on behalf
of themselves and the class alleged herein, state as follows for their complaint:
I. PRELIMINARY STATEMENT
1.

This is a civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ASS 1983

arising from a mass search of around 900 students at Worth County High School at
the direction of Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby.

2

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 3 of 36

2.

Plaintiffs bring this action to redress violations of the Fourth and

Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and similar provisions
of the Georgia Constitution.
3.

Plaintiffs, the putative class representatives, are nine Worth County

High School students who, like hundreds of their peers, were subjected to unlawful
and intrusive searches of their persons by employees of the Worth County Sheriffas
Office acting at the direction of Sheriff Hobby.
4.

Defendantsa mass search of all or nearly all Worth County High

School students took place on Friday, April 14, 2017. On that date, Sheriff Hobby
and his deputies placed the high school on alockdowna for four hours. About 40
uniformed officers from five law enforcement agencies arrived on school grounds.
Educational programs were interrupted, students were directed to remain in
specified areas without any explanation as to what was happening, and studentsa
cell phones were seized.
5.

Starting at about 8:00 a.m. on April 14, Defendants, under the direct

orders and supervision of Sheriff Hobby, and assisted by officers from other
agencies,1 conducted a drug sweep, indiscriminately searching all or nearly all

Officers from the Crisp, Dooly, and Turner County sheriffas offices and the Forsyth
Police Department responded to Sheriff Hobbyas request for assistance that day, but
are not named as defendants. Upon information and belief, none of the officers from
these other agencies participated in searches of studentsa bodies.
1

3

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 4 of 36

studentsa persons and clothes, and using police dogs to search their bags,
classrooms, lockers, and cars.
6.

The Sheriffas mass search included a hands-on, body search of every

or nearly every student in attendance at school that day, including students with
disabilities.
7.

Defendantsa searches of students were intrusive, performed in an

aggressive manner, and done in full view of other students. For example:
a)

Deputies ordered students to stand facing the wall with their hands

and legs spread wide apart;
b)

Deputies touched and manipulated studentsa breasts and genitals;

c)

Deputies inserted fingers inside girlsa bras, and pulled up girlsa bras,

touching and partially exposing their bare breasts;
d)

Deputies touched girlsa underwear by placing hands inside the

waistbands of their pants or reaching up their dresses;
e)

Deputies touched girlsa vaginal areas through their underwear;

f)

Deputies cupped or groped boysa genitals and touched their buttocks

through their pants.
8.

Defendants had no warrant or other authority to perform a mass

search on hundreds of public school children.

4

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 5 of 36

9.

The purported justification for the mass search was to discover drugs.

To that end, Sheriff Hobby had a list of thirteen students on a atarget lista that he
suspected of possessing drugs. The atarget lista included only three students who
were in school on April 14. Defendants had no basis for suspecting any other
student of involvement in unlawful activity.
10.

No illegal controlled substances or drug paraphernalia were

discovered during the mass search.
11.

Defendants had no right to touch, pat-down, or manipulate the body

parts of Plaintiffs or other students. Defendants had no right to search Plaintiffsa
clothes and undergarments. Defendantsa unlawful conduct injured Plaintiffs by
causing them fear, embarrassment, stress, and humiliation.
12.

Plaintiffs seek damages and declaratory relief for members of a class

of all students seized and searched by Worth County Sheriffas Office employees at
Worth County High School on April 14, 2017, other than those identified on the
Sheriffas target list.
II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
13.

Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ASS 1983 and the

Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. This Court
has subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ASS 1331, as this action arises

5

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 6 of 36

under the laws and Constitution of the United States, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
ASS 1343, as it seeks to redress civil rights violations.
14.

Plaintiffs also bring state-law claims arising out of the same events

and occurrences, and the Court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these
claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ASS 1367. Declaratory relief is available pursuant to 28
U.S.C. ASS 2201.
15.

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ASS 1391, because at least one

Defendant resides in this district and all Defendants reside in this state, and
because a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims set forth in this
complaint occurred within this district and this division.
III. PARTIES
A. Plaintiffs
16.

Plaintiffs are citizens of the United States and, at all times relevant to

this complaint, were residents of Georgia.
K.A.
17.

Plaintiff K.A. is a 16-year-old student who was enrolled in the 10th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. She brings
suit through her mother and next friend, Lisa Adams. Defendant Whiddon seized
K.A. and performed a search of K.A.as person, as further described herein.

6

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 7 of 36

Whiddon performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized
suspicion or any reason to believe that K.A. had engaged in any unlawful activity.
T.S.
18.

Plaintiff T.S. is a 16-year-old student who was enrolled in the 10th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. She brings
suit through her mother and next friend, Gigi Smith. Defendant Jane Doe 1 seized
T.S. and performed a search of T.S.as person, as further described herein. Jane
Doe 1 performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized
suspicion or any reason to believe that T.S. had engaged in any unlawful activity.
B.S.
19.

Plaintiff B.S. is a 15-year-old student who was enrolled in the 9th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. He brings
suit through his mother and next friend, Figen Guillot. Defendant Brannen seized
B.S. and performed a search of B.S.as person, as further described herein. Brannen
performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized suspicion or
any reason to believe that B.S. had engaged in any unlawful activity.

7

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 8 of 36

S.M.
20.

Plaintiff S.M. is an 18-year-old who was enrolled in the 12th grade at

Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year.2 Defendant
Whiddon seized S.M. and performed a search of S.M.as person, as further
described herein. Whiddon performed this search even though Defendants had no
individualized suspicion or any reason to believe that S.M. had engaged in any
unlawful activity.
A.W.
21.

Plaintiff A.W. is a 15-year-old student who was enrolled in the 9th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. She brings
suit through her mother and next friend, Rhonda Norris. Defendant Whiddon
seized A.W. and performed a search of A.W.as person, as further described herein.
Whiddon performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized
suspicion or any reason to believe that A.W. had engaged in any unlawful activity.

S.M. will seek a protective order requiring the litigants to refer to her by her initials
in public filings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(e). S.M. has good cause to seek a protective
order because: (1) S.M. was a student at the time of the incident described herein;
(2) this lawsuit involves sensitive allegations that a law enforcement officer touched
private parts of S.M.as body; and (3) the named plaintiffs who are minors are
identified by their initials. See id.
2

8

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 9 of 36

D.J.
22.

Plaintiff D.J. is a 16-year-old student who was enrolled in the 10th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. He brings
suit through his mother and next friend, Lucetta Jordan. Defendant Greene seized
D.J. and performed a search of D.J.as person, as further described herein. Greene
performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized suspicion or
any reason to believe that D.J. had engaged in any unlawful activity.
K.P.
23.

Plaintiff K.P. is an 18-year-old who was enrolled in the 12th grade at

Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year.3 Defendant
Whiddon seized K.P. and performed a search of K.P.as person, as further described
herein. Whiddon performed this search even though Defendants had no
individualized suspicion or any reason to believe that K.P. had engaged in any
unlawful activity.

K.P. will seek a protective order requiring the litigants to refer to her by her initials
in public filings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(e). K.P. has good cause to seek a protective
order because: (1) K.P. was a student at the time of the incident described herein; (2)
this lawsuit involves sensitive allegations that a law enforcement officer touched
private parts of K.P.as body; and (3) the named plaintiffs who are minors are
identified by their initials. See id.
3

9

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 10 of 36

L.H.
24.

Plaintiff L.H. is a 15-year-old student who was enrolled in the 9th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. She brings
suit through her father and next friend, Joey Haire. Defendant Whiddon seized
L.H. and performed a search of L.H.as person, as further described herein.
Whiddon performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized
suspicion or any reason to believe that L.H. had engaged in any unlawful activity.
J.E.
25.

Plaintiff J.E. is a 16-year-old student who was enrolled in the 10th

grade at Worth County High School during the 2016-2017 school year. He brings
suit through his father and next friend, Joelandon Dixon. Defendant Turner seized
J.E. and performed a search of J.E.as person, as further described herein. Turner
performed this search even though Defendants had no individualized suspicion or
any reason to believe that J.E. had engaged in any unlawful activity.
B. Defendants
Jeff Hobby
26.

Jeff Hobby is the Sheriff of Worth County, Georgia. He planned,

ordered, orchestrated, executed, and directly supervised the conduct of his deputies
in conducting the April 14, 2017, body searches of all or nearly all students at
Worth County High School. Hobby was present at the school during the mass

10

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 11 of 36

search, intended for his deputies to conduct the body searches described herein,
instructed his deputies to conduct the body searches described herein, and
personally observed many of the searches as they were being conducted. As such,
there is a direct causal connection between Hobbyas actions and the constitutional
violations that occurred. Hobby acted under color of law and violated the clearly
established constitutional rights of Plaintiffs. Hobby is sued in his individual
capacity. He is a resident of Georgia.
John Brannen
27.

John Brannen is a deputy employed by the Worth County Sheriffas

Office. Brannen personally participated in the physical body searches of male
students at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017. Brannen performed
unlawful and unreasonably intrusive searches on Plaintiff B.S. and other students.
He did so even though Defendants had no probable cause, individualized
suspicion, or any reason to believe that named Plaintiffs or any other student not on
the target list had engaged in any unlawful activity or possessed any unlawful or
prohibited items. He acted under color of law and violated the clearly established
constitutional rights of the students he searched. He is sued in his individual
capacity. Brannen is a resident of Georgia.

11

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 12 of 36

Ray Greene
28.

Ray Greene is a deputy employed by the Worth County Sheriffas

Office. Greene personally participated in the physical body searches of male
students at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017. Greene performed
unlawful and unreasonably intrusive searches on Plaintiff D.J. and others. He did
so even though Defendants had no probable cause, individualized suspicion, or any
reason to believe that named Plaintiffs or any other student not on the target list
had engaged in any unlawful activity or possessed any unlawful or prohibited
items. He acted under color of law and violated the clearly established
constitutional rights of the students he searched. He is sued in his individual
capacity. Greene is a resident of Georgia.
Tyler Turner
29.

Tyler Turner is a deputy employed by the Worth County Sheriffas

Office. Turner personally participated in the physical body searches of male
students at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017. Turner performed
unlawful and unreasonably intrusive searches on Plaintiff J.E. and others. He did
so even though Defendants had no probable cause, individualized suspicion, or any
reason to believe that named Plaintiffs or any other student not on the target list
had engaged in any unlawful activity or possessed any unlawful or prohibited
items. He acted under color of law and violated the clearly established

12

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 13 of 36

constitutional rights of the students he searched. He is sued in his individual
capacity. Turner is a resident of Georgia.
Brandi Whiddon
30.

Brandi Whiddon is a deputy employed by the Worth County Sheriffas

Office. Whiddon personally participated in the physical body searches of female
students at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017. Whiddon performed
unlawful and unreasonably intrusive searches on Plaintiffs K.A., S.M., A.W., and
others. She did so even though Defendants had no probable cause, individualized
suspicion, or any reason to believe that named Plaintiffs or any other student not on
the target list had engaged in any unlawful activity or possessed any unlawful or
prohibited items. She acted under color of law and violated the clearly established
constitutional rights of the students she searched. Whiddon is sued in her
individual capacity. She is a resident of Georgia.
John or Jane Does 1-25
31.

John or Jane Does 1-25 are employees of the Worth County Sheriffas

Office who physically searched the bodies of students at Worth County High
School on April 14, 2017. They did so even though they had no probable cause,
individualized suspicion, or any reason to believe that Plaintiffs or any other
student not on the target list had engaged in any unlawful activity or possessed any
unlawful or prohibited items. They acted under color of law and violated the

13

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 14 of 36

clearly established constitutional rights of Plaintiffs. They are sued in their
individual capacities. Plaintiffs do not know the identities of these employees, but
will amend this complaint to include their true names as soon as possible.4 Upon
information and belief, John or Jane Does 1-25 are residents of Georgia.
IV. CLASS ALLEGATIONS
32.

Plaintiffs bring this action individually and, pursuant to Rules 23(a)

and (b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on behalf of a class of similarly
situated persons. Plaintiffs seek to certify a class defined as all students seized and
searched by Worth County Sheriffas Office employees at Worth County High
School on April 14, 2017, other than those identified on the Sheriffas target list.5

Documentation relating to the mass search suggests that all deputies employed by
the Worth County Sheriffas Office were involved in the search. Sheriff Hobby
issued a memorandum on April 4, 2017, instructing all deputies to report to work at
7:45 a.m. on the morning of the search for briefing. Although Plaintiffs do not
presently know the names of these deputies, they are identified with 29 numbers in
Hobbyas memorandum. These numbers are: W2, W10, W14, W15, W16, W17,
W18, W19, W20, W21, W22, W23, W24, W25, W26, W27, W28, W29, W30, W31,
W32, W33, W34, W35, W36, W37, W38, W39, and W41. Plaintiffs will request
that the Court permit early discovery, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(d)(1), limited to that necessary to learn the identities of the other deputies who
conducted body searches of students. Video recordings in the custody of
administrators of Worth County High School will likely reveal the identities of the
deputies who conducted the body searches.
4

As further alleged herein, the three students on the Sheriffas target list in attendance
that day were detained and searched in administrative offices at the school, rather
than in the hallways or gym with the rest of their classmates.
5

14

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 15 of 36

33.

Plaintiffs meet the requirements of Rule 23(a) in that:
a)

The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
impracticable. The class consists of nearly all of the students in
attendance at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017a
approximately 900 students.

b)

Every class memberas claim turns on the following question,
which is therefore common to the class: whether a law
enforcement officer may seize and search a studentas body and
personal belongings, for purposes of discovering evidence of
criminal activity, without any justification or information about
the student other than that he or she is enrolled at a particular
school.

c)

The claims of the named Plaintiffs are typical of the claims of
the class because each member of the class was searched at the
direction of Sheriff Hobby, by one of his deputies, at Worth
County High School, on April 14, 2017, for the same purpose,
and with the same absence of any individualized suspicion.

d)

The named Plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the
interests of the class. The Plaintiffs possess the requisite
personal interest in the subject matter of the lawsuit and possess

15

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 16 of 36

no interests adverse to other class members. The Plaintiffs are
represented by attorneys at the Southern Center for Human
Rights, a nonprofit organization with extensive experience in
civil rights class action litigation, and Horsley Begnaud LLC, a
law firm with extensive experience in civil rights and personal
injury cases.
e)

Plaintiffs meet the requirement of Rule 23(b)(3) because
common questions of law and fact predominate over questions
affecting individual class members and a class action is superior
to any other method of adjudicating this dispute. In this case,
where about 900 students were unlawfully searched by
Defendants, a class action will permit common questions of law
and fact to be resolved in one proceeding, and will avoid
burdening the court with numerous, separate lawsuits that could
result in inconsistent judgments.

16

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 17 of 36

V. STATEMENT OF FACTS
A.

Defendants Planned a Mass Search of All or Nearly All Students
at Worth County High School.

34.

Defendant Hobby maintains a atarget lista of people he intends to

investigate because he suspects they have committed crimes. In early 2017, Hobby
placed thirteen Worth County High School students on the atarget lista because he
believed they might have brought drugs to the school.
35.

In late March 2017, Hobby informed Harley Calhoun, the principal of

Worth County High School, that he planned to conduct a search at the school.
36.

Hobby did not inform Calhoun that Hobby intended for his deputies to

conduct body searches of all or nearly all students in the school.
37.

At no time did Calhoun, or any other school administrator, agree to

permit Defendants to conduct body searches of each student in the school.
38.

The School Resource Officeraa Sylvester Police Department officer

assigned to Worth County High Schoolawas attending a training on April 14,
2017, and was unaware of Defendantsa plan to conduct a mass search on that date.
39.

Although Hobby did not share with school administrators that he

intended for his deputies to conduct a hands-on, body search of all students, that
was his plan.
40.

Hobby knew that his deputies would search the bodies of every or

nearly every student at Worth County High School, even though Defendants did
17

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 18 of 36

not have individualized suspicion that any particular student, except possibly the
three students on the target list, was involved in any wrongdoing.
41.

To ensure a sufficient number of officers to search the schoolas

approximately 900 students, Hobby ordered all of his deputies to report for work
on the morning of the search.
42.

Hobby personally ordered Defendants Brannen, Greene, Turner,

Whiddon, and the John and Jane Doe Defendants to search every or nearly every
student at the school and personally instructed classrooms full of students to line
up in hallways and in the gym to be searched. Hobby knew that the searches were
being performed with the level of intrusiveness described in this complaint and
personally observed many of them.
B.

Defendants Lacked Justification for the Body Searches of 900
Students.

43.

Upon arriving at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017,

Hobby gave Principal Calhoun a written list of the names of thirteen students on
his atarget list.a Hobby ordered that the students on the target list be brought to
administrative offices and isolated there for the duration of his search.
44.

Per Hobbyas order, the three students in attendance that day whose

names appeared on the target list were brought to school administrative offices
where they were held until the search concluded.

18

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 19 of 36

45.

Defendants had no reason to believe that any student in school that

day (with the possible exception of the three students on the target list) had any
illegal substance or engaged in any unlawful activity.
46.

Neither Calhoun nor any other school administrator had

individualized suspicion or any reason to believe that any student in school that
day (with the possible exception of the three students on the target list) had any
illegal substance or engaged in any unlawful activity.
47.

With respect to Plaintiffs who were subject to searches of their bras or

underwear, Defendants had no reasonable suspicion of danger and no reason to
believe that any student was hiding any controlled substance or other prohibited
item in his or her undergarments.
48.

At the request of Hobby, a school official made an announcement

over the intercom shortly after school began on the morning of April 14, 2017,
indicating that the school was being placed on lockdown. This was the first time
that teachers learned that law enforcement activity of any kind would be occurring
at the school that day.
49.

Following the announcement regarding the lockdown, Plaintiffs were

confined either to their first-period classrooms, to the hallways immediately
outside their classrooms, or to the gym. Plaintiffsa cell phones were seized so that
they could not reach their parents. Plaintiffs were prevented from contacting their

19

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 20 of 36

parents during the entire duration of the searchafrom approximately 8:00 a.m.
until approximately 12:00 p.m.
50.

During the lockdown and mass search, Defendants restricted studentsa

access to restrooms. Some students were not permitted to go to the restroom for
the entire four-hour lockdown period.
51.

The deputies conducting the searchesaincluding searches that

involved the touching of or reaching inside Plaintiffsa undergarmentsasometimes
did not wear gloves or did not change their gloves between searches.
52.

Despite searching approximately 900 students, Defendants did not

discover any illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia.
C.

Defendantsa Body Searches of Plaintiffs Were Unreasonable,
Aggressive, and Invasive.

K.A.
53.

K.A., age 16, was in her first period literature class when Defendants

began their mass search. Sheriff Hobby entered K.A.as classroom and ordered the
students to line up in the hallway with their hands on the wall. Deputy Whiddon
took one of K.A.as arms, placed it higher up on the wall, and kicked her legs to
open them wider. Whiddon pulled the front of K.A.as bra away from her body by
the underwire and flipped it up. Whiddon also looked down the back and front of
K.A.as dress. Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.as ankles up to her pelvic
area. Whiddonas hands went underneath K.A.as dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.as
20

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 21 of 36

leg. Whiddonas hands stopped on and cupped K.A.as vaginal area and buttocks.
Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing
gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A.
T.S.
54.

T.S., age 16, was in her first period art class when Defendants began

their mass search. When her class was called into the hallway, Worth County law
enforcement officials told T.S. and the other students in her class to place their
hands on the wall and spread their legs apart. Jane Doe 1 nudged T.S.as legs
further apart, and began patting T.S.as thighs. Jane Doe 1 asked if T.S. had any
pockets; T.S. said no. Jane Doe 1 then slid her hands down T.S.as legs, over her
skirt. Jane Doe 1 then squeezed T.S.as breasts through her shirt, and patted the
pockets of T.S.as jean jacket. Jane Doe 1 asked T.S. to lift the front of her shirt,
and T.S. complied, lifting her shirt high enough to expose her stomach and navel.
Jane Doe 1 also required T.S. to take off her shoes and lift her feet so that Jane Doe
1 could see their soles.
B.S.
55.

B.S., age 15, was in his literature composition class when Defendants

began their mass search. When B.S.as class was called into the hallway, B.S. saw
Sheriff Hobby standing amongst his deputies. Before Defendant Brannen began to
search B.S., he asked whether B.S. had anything that might cut or injure him; B.S.

21

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 22 of 36

said no. Brannen started at B.S.as torso and worked his way down. He patted
B.S.as shoulders and chest and abdomen with his open palms. Brannen spent three
to five seconds repeatedly grabbing with the tips of his fingers at the front of B.S.as
pants, moving his fingers back and forth from B.S.as front pockets to his groin. He
continued doing so until B.S. informed him that one of his pockets contained a set
of earbuds and that the other one was empty. During this time, Brannenas
fingertips touched B.S.as penis and testicles, over clothes, four to five times. Next,
Brannen pinched B.S.as buttocks repeatedly through B.S.as back pockets. Finally,
Brannen pushed with his fingers on the top of B.S.as shoes.
S.M.
56.

S.M., age 18, arrived at the high school after Defendants had started

their mass search. S.M. participates in an early childhood education internship and
had been on an internship assignment with other students at a nearby primary
school. When S.M. arrived at the high school, she encountered three law
enforcement officers with dogs in the parking lot. The officers ordered S.M. to
exit the car and leave her possessions inside. S.M. was directed to the gym, which
was full of other students. After S.M. waited in the gym for some time, Deputy
Whiddon began to search S.M. Whiddon instructed S.M. to spread her legs and
place her hands, also spread, on the wall. Whiddon patted down each of S.M.as
legs, and rubbed her hand up the inside of each leg and over her groin. Whiddon

22

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 23 of 36

asked S.M. what she had in her back pockets. S.M. replied that she had some
dollar bills and chap stick. Whiddon placed her hands in the back pockets of
S.M.as jeans. Whiddon then inserted the fingers on both of her hands four inches
down into the waistband of S.M.as pants and moved them around from front to
back. Next, Whiddon rubbed her hands over S.M.as bare stomach. Whiddon
inserted her fingertips under the band of S.M.as bra in her armpits and shook S.M.
forcefully for three to five seconds. Finally, Whiddon ran her hands down S.M.as
bare arms, and directed S.M. to remove her sandals. Whiddon was not wearing
gloves during her search of S.M. Sheriff Hobby was present at the time Whiddon
searched S.M.
A.W.
57.

A.W., age 15, was in her world history class when Defendants started

their mass search. When her class was called out into the hallway, A.W. and her
classmates were ordered to line up with their hands against the wall and their legs
spread. A.W. was wearing a sleeveless dress and cover-up over her arms. Deputy
Whiddon asked A.W. if she had pockets; although A.W. said no, Whiddon
searched for pockets anyway. At Whiddonas direction, A.W. turned to face
Whiddon, and Whiddon reached her hands around A.W.as midsection, between her
cover-up and her dress, around to her back. A.W. then turned back to the wall, and
Whiddon touched her knees to spread them further apart. On one leg and then the

23

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 24 of 36

other, Whiddon moved both her hands from A.W.as knees up to her thighs, within
one inch of her vaginal area. Whiddon then reached her hand over A.W.as
shoulder and into the front of A.W.as dress, and moved her hand left and right
between her breasts. Whiddon placed her fingertips under the underwire of A.W.as
bra and touched her breasts.
D.J.
58.

D.J., age 16, was in his social studies class when Defendants started

their mass search. When his class was called out into the hallway, D.J. and his
classmates were lined up against the wall, and told to astay stilla and aface
forward,a with their hands on the wall and their legs spread. At some point, a
deputy asked D.J. whether he had already been searched; D.J. answered in the
negative. Deputy Greene then conducted a search of D.J.as body. Greene rubbed
the palms of his hands over D.J.as lower and upper arms, shoulders, chest, back,
and abdomen. Next, he placed a hand inside one of the front pockets of D.J.as
pants, which contained pencils. Greene then spent over ten seconds using his
fingers to cup and grope D.J.as penis and testicles through his pants. After D.J.
reacted by shifting his position, Greene sped up the remainder of the search,
rubbing the palms of his hands down the insides and outsides of both of D.J.as legs.
Finally, Greene removed D.J.as shoes and checked inside them, and ran his hands
across the bottoms of D.J.as socks.

24

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 25 of 36

K.P.
59.

K.P., age 18, was in her economics class when Defendants started

their mass search. When her class was called out into the hallway, K.P. was told to
stand with her hands on the wall and her legs spread. She was standing with her
legs about shoulder-width apart, but Deputy Whiddon kicked them further apart.
Whiddon told K.P. not to look back at her. Whiddon unzipped K.P.as jacket and
asked K.P. whether it had pockets. Despite K.P.as statement that it did not have
pockets, Whiddon reached inside to feel for pockets. K.P. took the jacket off.
Then, Whiddon rubbed her hands from K.P.as waist up to her breasts and squeezed
her breasts five times through her shirt. Whiddon moved the front center of K.P.as
bra left and right, and then lifted the underwire of her bra so that it was sitting
above her bare breasts. Whiddon then groped her breasts twice through her shirt.
Next, Whiddon put her hands into K.P.as jeans pockets, at an angle towards her
groin area. Through the pockets, Whiddonas fingertips went under K.P.as
underwear and touched her vaginal area. Whiddon also patted down K.P.as legs,
from high on her thighs down to her ankles. Finally, Whiddon told K.P. to take off
her shoes; she looked inside them and then threw them back at K.P. K.P. had to
pull her bra down herself at the end of the search.

25

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 26 of 36

L.H.
60.

L.H., age 15, was in her algebra class when Defendants started their

mass search. When her class was called out into the hallway, L.H. and her
classmates were ordered to put their hands on the wall, spread their legs apart, and
remain quiet. At the time Deputy Whiddon searched L.H., L.H. was standing next
to a male classmate. Whiddon first patted L.H.as chest. Then, she moved to L.H.as
legs, and patted down both of them simultaneously, with one hand on each, from
the tops of her thighs to her ankles. Whiddon took L.H.as shoes off and banged
them together, and patted L.H.as feet. Then, Whiddon returned to L.H.as upper
body. She reached up under L.H.as shirt, lifted her bra, and touched her bare
breasts, including her nipples. Whiddon also shook L.H.as bra. Next, Whiddon
inserted her fingers about two inches into the waistband of L.H.as jeans, between
her jeans and her underwear, and moved her fingers across the front of her
abdomen. Finally, Whiddon told L.H. that she could put her shoes on and turn
around. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her
search of L.H.
J.E.
61.

J.E., age 16, was in his agriculture class when Defendants started their

mass search. When his class was called into the hallway, J.E. and his classmates
were told to take off their shoes and stand with their hands on the wall. Deputy

26

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 27 of 36

Turner asked J.E. if he had anything in his pockets that could poke him; J.E.
replied that he had headphones, bubble gum, and a tube of chap stick. Turner took
the chap stick, applied some to his glove, and smelled the substance. Turner then
put his hands in J.E.as back pockets. Next, Turner twice rubbed his hands up and
down J.E.as chest, and inserted his hands between the buttons on his collared shirt,
but over his undershirt, to rub J.E.as underarms. Turning to J.E.as lower body,
Turner used both hands to rub down each of J.E.as legs, starting at his thighs and
ending at his ankles. Then, Turner reached between J.E.as legs, cupped his
testicles, and squeezed them twice; he also touched J.E.as penis through his pants.
Turner next touched J.E.as buttocks though his pants, and squeezed them twice.
D. Defendantsa Unlawful Mass Search Injured Plaintiffs.
62.

Defendantsa actions harmed the Plaintiffs by causing them injury

including anxiety, embarrassment, and humiliation.
63.

Defendantsa actions caused Plaintiffs to experience fear, shame, and

emotional distress.
64.

Defendantsa actions harmed the Plaintiffs by damaging their ability to

trust law enforcement officers and persons in positions of authority in general.
E. Defendants Violated Clearly Established Law.
65.

It is clearly established that law enforcement officers violate the

Constitution when, at their own instigation, in an effort to obtain evidence of

27

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 28 of 36

illegal drug possession, they seize and search the body of any person (including a
student) without probable cause.6
66.

It is clearly established that probable cause requires individualized

suspicion, and that mere attendance at a large school at which a few students are
suspected of possessing drugs is not sufficient to establish probable cause or
otherwise render reasonable the seizure and search of the body of a student, by and
at the instigation of law enforcement officers, for the purpose of obtaining
evidence of illegal drug possession.7
See State v. Young, 216 S.E.2d 586, 591-92 (Ga. 1975) (explaining that while
attenuated Fourth Amendment protections apply to searches conducted by apublic
school officials,a aentirely without the participation of law enforcement officers,a
alaw enforcement officers, of course, are bound by the full panoply of Fourth
Amendment rightsa when searching students); see also State v. K.L.M., 628 S.E.2d
651, 652-53 (Ga. App. 2006) (requiring probable cause for the in-school search of a
student by a law enforcement officer even though the search was directed by the
principal a[b]ecause [the officer] was a law enforcement officer who participated in
the searcha); Patman v. State, 244 S.E.2d 118, 120 (Ga. App. 2000) (aUnlike a
school official, a police officer must have probable cause to search a suspect.a),
disapproved of on other grounds by State v. Kazmierczak, 771 S.E.2d 473, 476-77
(Ga. App. 2015). Cf. Stephens v. DeGiovanni, 852 F.3d 1298, 1316 n.14 (11th Cir.
2017) (recognizing that alaw can be clearly established for qualified immunity
purposesa by decisions of athe highest court of the state where the case arosea
(quoting Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1197 n.5 (11th Cir. 2002)).
6

See Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85, 91 (1979) (a[A] personas mere propinquity to
others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise
to probable cause to search that person. Where the standard is probable cause, a
search or seizure of a person must be supported by probable cause particularized
with respect to that person.a (citation omitted)); see also Swint v. City of Wadley,
Ala., 51 F.3d 988, 997 (11th Cir. 1995) (aProbable cause to arrest one suspect, and
even probable cause to believe that a number of other or unidentified people had sold
7

28

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 29 of 36

67.

Defendants had not obtained warrants to arrest or to search Plaintiffs.

68.

Plaintiffs did not consent to being seized or searched.

69.

None of the searches, including the searches of Plaintiffs, occurred

incident to lawful arrests.
70.

There existed no exigent circumstances to justify the searches of

Plaintiffs.
71.

Even if Defendants had seized and searched the bodies of Plaintiffs at

the behest of school administrators and for purposes of maintaining an educational
environment, they would still have violated Plaintiffsa clearly established
constitutional rights by conducting mass, physically intrusive searches without any
individualized suspicion.8

drugs in the establishment in the past, did not give the officers carte blanche to seize
everyone who happened to be in the Club when the two raids took place.a).
See Safford United Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364, 374-77 (2009)
(establishing that aspecific justificationsa are required for an intrusive search of a
student by school officialsanot generalities, but rather reasonable suspicion that the
particular drugs the particular student is believed to be carrying pose a danger, or
reasonable suspicion that the student is at that time hiding those drugs near her
private parts); see also Skinner v. Ry. Labor Executivesa Assan, 489 U.S. 602, 624
(1989) (explaining that only in alimited circumstances, where the privacy interests
implicated by the search are minimal, and where an important government interest
furthered by the intrusion would be placed in jeopardy by a requirement of
individualized suspicion, [may] a search . . . be conducted despite the absence of
such suspiciona); Thomas ex rel. Thomas v. Roberts, 261 F.3d 1160, 1169 (11th Cir.
2001) (concluding that an intrusive, mass search of students by school officials
violated the Fourth Amendment because the searches were conducted without
8

29

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 30 of 36

72.

Defendants had fair warning that their conduct was unconstitutional

because a mass search of nearly 900 public school children by law enforcement
officers without any individualized suspicion clearly and obviously violates the
Constitution. Gray ex. Rel. Alexander v. Bostic, 458 F.3d 1295, 1306-07 (11th Cir.
2006) (discussing aobvious claritya cases in the school seizure context).
73.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, the seizures and searches

of Plaintiffs were plainly unreasonable. The conduct of Defendants lies so
aobviously at the very core of what the Fourth Amendment prohibits that the
unlawfulness of the conduct was [or should have been] readily apparent . . . .a
Smith v. Mattox, 127 F.3d 1416, 1419 (11th Cir. 1997).
VI. CLAIMS FOR RELIEF
COUNT I
UNCONSTITUTIONAL SEARCH AND SEIZURE
Violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, Brought Under 42 U.S.C. ASS 1983,
and Violation of Art. 1, Sec. 1, Para. XIII of the Georgia Constitution
(by all Plaintiffs against all Defendants)
74.

Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate by reference the preceding

paragraphs of this complaint as if fully stated herein.

individualized suspicion), vacated, 536 U.S. 953 (2002), reinstated, 323 F.3d 950
(11th Cir. 2003).
30

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 31 of 36

75.

Without probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or legal authority,

Defendants detained Plaintiffs and other Worth County High School students;
impeded their liberty by requiring them to remain in particular locations in the
school for four hours; and subjected Plaintiffs to intrusive, hands-on, physical
searches of their bodies.
76.

Defendantsa mass search and seizure was not justified at its inception.

Defendants subjected Plaintiffs to the searches and seizures described herein even
though they had no reason to believe that Plaintiffs had engaged in any unlawful
activity. Defendants had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the searches of
Plaintiffs would turn up evidence that any student not on the target list had violated
the law.
77.

Defendantsa searches of Plaintiffs were not reasonably related to the

circumstances that purportedly justified the searches. Defendantsa searches were
unreasonably intrusive.
78.

Defendants had fair warning that their conduct would violate the

federal and state constitutions and no reasonable officer could have believed that
subjecting Plaintiffs to these searches and seizures was legal in the absence of
individualized suspicion or probable cause.
79.

In each and every instance set forth above, Defendants acted

intentionally, with malice, and with actual intent to cause injury in the performance

31

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 32 of 36

of their official functions. Defendants knew that requiring Plaintiffs to submit to
the searches described herein violated Plaintiffsa constitutional rights.
80.

Hobby and other supervisors within the Worth County Sheriffas

Office were confronted with and personally witnessed their officersa illegal acts,
possessed the power to prevent them, and chose not to act.
81.

Defendants are jointly and severally liable for the violation of

Plaintiffsa rights, and the harm Plaintiffs suffered as a result, because each
Defendant personally participated in the actions described herein, expressly
ordered or directed, or implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly condoned or
failed to remedy the wrongs at issue.
82.

Defendantsa above-described actions were willful, deliberate, and

malicious, and involved reckless or callous indifference to Plaintiffsa rights and
should be punished or deterred by an award of punitive or enhanced damages
against Defendants as permitted by law.

32

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 33 of 36

COUNT II
VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
Brought Under 42 U.S.C. ASS 1983,
and Violation of Art. I, Sec. I, Para. I of the Georgia Constitution
(by all Plaintiffs against all Defendants)
83.

Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate by reference the preceding

paragraphs of this complaint as if fully stated herein.
84.

Without probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or legal authority,

Defendants detained Plaintiffs and other Worth County High School students for
several hours and subjected Plaintiffs and other students to intrusive, hands-on,
physical searches of their bodies by law enforcement officers.
85.

Defendants subjected Plaintiffs to the mass searches described herein

even though they had no reason to believe that Plaintiffs had engaged in any
unlawful activity.
86.

Defendants subjected Plaintiffs to the body searches described herein

without the authorization or cooperation of school administrators.
87.

Defendants subjected Plaintiffs to body searches that violated

Plaintiffsa right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and under Ga. Const. art. I, Sec. I, Para. I.

33

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 34 of 36

88.

Defendants had fair warning that their conduct would violate the

federal and state constitutions and no reasonable officer could have believed that
requiring Plaintiffs to submit to these searches was legal.
89.

In each and every instance set forth above, Defendants acted

intentionally, with malice, and with actual intent to cause injury in the performance
of their official functions. Defendants knew that subjecting Plaintiffs and other
students to the searches described herein violated Plaintiffsa constitutional rights.
90.

Hobby and other supervisors within the Worth County Sheriffas

Office were confronted with and personally witnessed their officersa illegal acts,
possessed the power to prevent them, and chose not to act.
91.

Defendants are jointly and severally liable for the violation of

Plaintiffsa rights, and the harm they suffered as a result, because each Defendant
personally participated in the actions described herein, expressly ordered or
directed, or implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly condoned or failed to
remedy the wrongs at issue.
92.

Defendantsa above-described actions were willful, deliberate, and

malicious, and involved reckless or callous indifference to Plaintiffsa rights and
should be punished or deterred by an award of punitive or enhanced damages
against Defendants as permitted by law.

34

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 35 of 36

VII. PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs accordingly pray for the following relief:
a)

Certification of a class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
23;

b)

Compensatory damages, in an amount to be determined by the jury;

c)

Punitive damages according to federal and state law;

d)

A declaratory judgment stating that a law enforcement officer violates
a studentas rights under the United States and Georgia Constitutions
when he conducts a search of the studentas body absent voluntary
consent or individualized suspicion that the student has violated the
law;

e)

Reasonable attorneysa fees, expenses, and costs of litigation pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. ASS 1988 and other applicable laws.

f)

Such further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

DATED: This 1st day of June, 2017.
Respectfully submitted,
/s/ Sarah Geraghty
Sarah Geraghty
Ga. Bar No. 291393
Gerald Weber
Ga. Bar No. 744878
Crystal Redd
Ga. Bar No. 969002
Aaron Littman
35

Case 1:17-cv-00099-LJA Document 1 Filed 06/01/17 Page 36 of 36

Ga. Bar No. 843053
SOUTHERN CENTER
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
83 Poplar Street, NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
(404) 688-1202
(404) 688-9440 (fax)
sgeraghty@schr.org
/s/ Mark Begnaud
Mark Begnaud
Ga. Bar No. 217641
Nathanael Horsley
Ga. Bar No. 367832
HORSLEY BEGNAUD LLC
750 Hammond Drive
Building 12, Suite 300
Atlanta, Georgia 30328
(770) 765-5559
(404) 602-0018 (fax)
mbegnaud@gacivilrights.com
Counsel for Plaintiffs

36