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Wisconsin lawmakers pitch strip search law overhaul

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(The Center Square) – A pair of Green Bay-area lawmakers want to rewrite Wisconsin’s strip search law to make it clear that underwear counts too.

Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, and Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, told an Assembly committee on Thursday that the law needs to be updated after the superintendent in Suring Schools stripped five teenage girls down to their underwear to look for a vape cartridge in January of last year.

“She had all of them get down to their skivvies and then manipulate their undergarments in a way that would distance them from their bodies, so that a vape cartridge might then fall to the ground,” Wimberger explained.

The Oconto County Sheriff’s Office investigated, and the local D.A. brought charges against the superintendent for an unlawful strip search. But because the girls weren’t stripped naked, the case was ultimately dismissed because Wisconsin’s strip search law says someone has to be naked.

“The administrator made it clear, and this is almost a verbatim quote, she said ‘I have more power to strip search than law enforcement,’,” Steffen added.

Steffen and Wimberger want to change the definition of a strip search to add “underwear clad.”

“Part of the semantic-overload when we were dealing with this problem in northeast Wisconsin is people would say ‘the administrator conducted a strip search.’ And the school would say ‘No that didn’t happen. A strip search was not conducted.’,” Wimberger explained. “Now we’re talking about a definition, as opposed to a common sense notion of what a [strip search] might be.”

Ultimately, the superintendent in Suring resigned, but was never convicted or punished for searching the girls. She also didn’t find a vape cartridge.

Steffen said there was a “community outcry” for lawmakers to do something.

Steffen and Wimberger’s plan would clarify that violating the expanded stripe search law would be a Class B misdemeanor, that’s punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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