Parents in Binghamton, New York are seeking a public apology and other redress from the Binghamton School District for the mistreatment of their daughters (the “girls”) who were subjected to an illegal strip search at East Middle School on January 15, 2019. The school principal, Tim Simonds, sent the girls to the nurse’s office accusing them of being too “hyper” and “giddy.”
In a letter to the Binghamton City School District—sent by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), on behalf of the girls—the parents are requesting that the District, among other things, formally punish East Middle School Principal Tim Simonds, Assistant Principal Michelle Raleigh and Nurse Mary Ellen Eggleston for violating the civil rights of the girls, and provide mental health and support services for the girls and their families, as well as mandated trainings for all East Middle School staff.
Janai Nelson, LDF Associate Director-Counsel issued the following statement:
“What happened to these girls at East Middle School is one of the worst invasions of personal privacy and acts of humiliation and intimidation that a young girl can experience. It shows that the innocent, youthful behavior of students of color is too often seen, punished and criminalized through the disdainful lens of racial bias.
“These students experienced unwarranted and demeaning school discipline and were denied an equal opportunity to learn for no other reason than being Black and brown girls. Instead of school administrators acknowledging the racial and gender bias that occurred, the girls face trauma and fear in returning to East Middle School.
“All children deserve to feel safe and to be treated fairly in school, and LDF will work tirelessly until the Binghamton School District is held to account.”
On January 15, 2019, four girls of color were stopped in the hallway by East Middle School Principal Tim Simonds who allegedly thought the girls, all of whom were 12 years old at the time, were “hyper” and “giddy.” He ordered and escorted the girls to the health office where Nurse Mary Ellen Eggleston separately and invasively examined each girl. In addition, the school staff subjected each girl to verbal and mental abuse during the incident.
The parents of the girls issued the following statement:
“All we want is for our daughters to be allowed to learn and thrive in school. Instead we are dealing with the aftermath of a wrongful invasion of our girls’ privacy. They were acting like typical pre-teens but because they are Black and brown they were seen differently by their principal and the school nurse and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.
“Our daughters and all students of color shouldn’t have to suffer like this. We hope the Binghamton School Board does the right thing and responds to our modest demands and that they issue a public apology to us.”
East Middle School is now denying that the strip searches occurred. On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for the State Education Department to investigate the incident involving the four girls.
Read LDF’s letter here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.