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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Here is a challenge for you. Reconcile the following:

In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified, including the Fourth Amendment, guaranteeing “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

In 2015, a 21-year-old woman named Charnesia Corley says she underwent a public body-cavity search for drugs at a gas station in Texas.

Explain, if you can, how the former and the latter can be simultaneously true.

According to Corley, a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County — Houston is the county seat — pulled her over for a traffic violation in June. Claiming he smelled marijuana, he searched the car, then called a female deputy to search Corley. She says the woman told her to pull her pants down. Corley, who was handcuffed, says she told the deputy she couldn’t and protested that she was wearing no panties. Whereupon, according to Corley, the deputy pulled the pants down herself and began her search.

Corley told CNN she “popped up” when she felt the woman’s fingers inside her and protested. Corley says the deputy replied: “I can do what I want to do, because this is a narcotics search.” Another female deputy was summoned. Corley found herself on the ground with, she says, both women on top of her. And if you were looking for the textbook definition of an “unreasonable” search, surely you could not find a better one than a bare-bottomed woman held down on the pavement in full public view while her vagina is forcibly probed for drugs.

The Harris County Sheriff has declined comment, citing an “ongoing internal affairs investigation” — and a possible civil suit. According to at least some reports, deputies did find marijuana — 0.02 ounces — though it is unclear where. The Associated Press reports that charges against Corley — drug possession and resisting arrest –were dropped last week.

Apparently, none of this is unique. The Washington Post tells us there have been similar cases in Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, and in Citrus County and Coral Springs, Florida. The victims have been both male and female.

And so, we reap the fruit of our own short-sightedness. In their hysteria over drugs and sanguine surety that only guilty people need worry about their rights, too many of us have watched with acquiescence the steady erosion of the freedoms that stand between us and a police state. The government arrogates unto itself the power to seize a person’s money without even bringing charges, the Supreme Court gives police unfettered power to stop cars on any pretext in order to hunt for drugs, police stop and frisk — and cuff and beat — without probable cause, and some of us shrug and say, so what?

Well, this is what: Charnesia Corley ends up humiliated and sexually assaulted, spread-eagle on the ground with our collective fingers up her individual private parts. Apparently, some of us find that less terrifying than 0.02 ounces of pot.

It is past time those somnambulant people woke up to what is happening here, to what is being stolen. Drugs are a danger, yes. But in response to that danger, we have accorded police too much deference, leeway and power. That observation is not about disrespecting them, but requiring that they respect us, the people they work for.

There is, not to put too fine a point on it, zero respect in a sheriff’s deputy publicly poking her fingers into another woman’s vagina — on suspicion, mind you, of marijuana possession. How can you reconcile that with the Fourth Amendment? You can’t.

“I can do what I want to do.” So the deputy reportedly told Corley. And that should scare you.

Because it wasn’t just arrogant. It was also, apparently, correct.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: Thomas Hawk

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.