- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Families of some of the D.C. students who say they were strip searched and forced to watch a sexual act during a field trip to the city jail said yesterday they will sue the city.
Attorneys for the families said they are seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages for each child in a lawsuit to be filed this week against the city government, the Board of Education and the D.C. Department of Corrections. The lawsuit charges the agencies with violating the students civil rights.
D.C. law requires plaintiffs suing city agencies to serve a notice of intent to sue before filing suit.
Seventeen female students from Evans Middle School in Northeast toured the jail May 18, the day after male students from the school complained to their principal they were strip searched during their tour, said Wayne Cohen, an attorney representing six Evans Middle School girls and one Ballou High School boy who toured the jail April 12.
The girls were led to a jail block of male inmates, where they were harassed and forced to watch while an inmate masturbated, Mr. Cohen said. Two teachers and a guard were with the students but did little when the girls complained, he said.
Mr. Cohen also accused corrections officers of strip searching one girl. One male student, he said, was held down by eight inmates, put into a cell, and strip searched by a guard in view of the inmates.
More students from other jail tours have come forward with similar allegations, he said.
Parents of the girls expressed outrage yesterday, saying the principal should have canceled the girls tour after complaints from the boys.
"My daughter is embarrassed and humiliated," said the mother of a 14-year-old Evans student. "She doesnt want to go to school. She isnt the same [carefree] child she was."
Three corrections officers, two teachers and Evans Principal Diane Brown were placed on leave pending an investigation by the Corrections Department and the FBI.
"This appears to be a situation where our employees used extremely poor judgment and abused their authority," said Corrections Director Odie Washington through a spokesman. He said the department is investigating whether its employees violated a policy that mandates strip searches only for inmates entering the jail.
A spokesman for the D.C. Corporation Counsel told the Associated Press the city has not received the complaint.


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