Strip-search settlement mostly covered by insurance


October 11th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A$300,000 settlement with the families of three girls who were involved in the Atlantic High School strip search incident will be mostly covered by the Atlantic Community School District’s  insurance policy. Atlantic Superintendent Mike Amstein wanted to set the record straight on how the settlement would be paid for, during the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

search (click here to listen to audio from the meeting)

(as said – Amstein says the district’s carrier, EMC Insurance, has indicated the district is only responsible for the cost of its deductible, which is $1,500.)

Last month it was announced the Atlantic School District had agreed to pay $300,000 to the families of three students who were stripped search by a school employee in 2009. The settlement resolved a lawsuit brought by Holleigh Jo Jacobsen and her father, Matthew Jacobsen; Griffin Ferguson and her mother, Lisa Ferguson; and Paige Brianna Lank and her mother, Lee Lank. Each family of the three students will receive $100,000.

The lawsuit alleged that former Atlantic High School Assistant principal Paul Croghan ordered a strip search of five female students when another student reported they were missing $100. No money was found after the searches. Croghan resigned in 2009. The plaintiffs alleged the school violated the girls state and federal rights against unreasonable searches. On September 20th, Atlantic School officials admitted that the searches were against school policy and state law. They also said the girls did not do anything wrong.

The settlement however, did not absolve the district from its legal problems associated with the case. Last month, an open records suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU) reached the Iowa Court of Appeals. The civil-rights organization has been trying to find out what disciplinary action if any, was imposed on school officials involved in the search. The organization had initially lost its bid to have the information disclosed in district court, but appealed the decision.

The district has denied the ACLU’s request for information on the matter, saying disclosure would violate the employees’ privacy. ACLU officials have said that because the public has a legitimate and compelling interest in what transpired at the high school, the information should be disclosed.