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Dismissals are not enough
(Published June 4, 2001)

We’re a bit puzzled by the response to charges that D.C. public school students were strip-searched during recent school-sponsored tours of the D.C. Jail.

Internal investigations were launched by school and corrections officials as soon as the charges hit the press. Adults who were allegedly involved were either fired or suspended, pending further investigation. The FBI, we’re told, began investigating whether the students’ civil rights were violated, and aggrieved parents found a lawyer to sue for damages.

But there’s something important missing here.

Somebody should be beating down the doors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes local felonies, and demanding that the students’ charges be taken to a D.C. Superior Court grand jury.

The last time we checked, strip-searching anyone who is not a criminal suspect – especially when they are clearly objecting to such treatment, as some of these students reportedly did quite vehemently – is a criminal offense.

It’s called assault. And, depending upon how thoroughly the students were strip-searched, it could be called sexual assault. What’s more, these children appear to have been assaulted with at least the tacit assent of the adults in whose care their parents had placed their safety. This is child abuse.

Where is the outcry about making the offenders pay for what they did to these children?

Eight days after The Washington Post first reported this appalling news, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department told The Common Denominator on May 31 that our reporter was the first to ask whether D.C. police were investigating possible criminal charges related to the strip searches.

The reply was even more disturbing: No.

Apparently, no one asked them to do so.

Ironically, the people who thought they were teaching these children a lesson by taking them on a tour of the city jail seem to be in greater need of a lesson. That lesson needs to go beyond simple loss of employment.

These folks should be forced to explain what has been characterized as their "poor judgment" – possibly the understatement of the year – to a jury and a judge.

The president’s daughters
(Published June 4, 2001)

While it is understandable that normally protective parents would want to keep the misadventures of their teenage children out of the public eye, President and Mrs. Bush are wrong to think it is not the public’s business when their 19-year-old twin daughters run afoul of the law. Jenna Bush — and now allegedly her twin, Barbara, as well — are old enough to know better than to embarrass their parents and the nation by using fake IDs to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages where they are not old enough to do so legally.

Their behavior reflects on the parents who raised them and who helped to shape their values and their attitudes toward obeying the law. At their age, their behavior says something to the American public and the world about what kind of parents George W. and Laura Bush are. Can we expect the world to respect an American president whose own daughters don’t seem to think he has earned their respect in public?

Aside from damaging the president’s image, the president’s daughters don’t seem to be showing much respect for the state laws their father helped shape as governor of Texas. Surely, they can’t expect to be unrecognized by authorities in the state capital.

We have to wonder, too, about the impudence of teenagers who would violate liquor laws while under the protection of Secret Service agents. Those agents work for the Treasury Department, which is the same Cabinet department that enforces federal liquor laws through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. If the Bush girls’ misadventures continue, will those agents be caught looking the other way?

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator