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10 young students strip-searched in Texas

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, various newspapers and media in the U.S.A. and Canada, Friday, January 7, 2005

LA MARQUE, Texas -- Ten students between the ages of 11 and 12 were strip-searched as officials at their charter school tried to find a missing $10 bill.

Seven girls and three boys at the Mainland Preparatory Academy were searched down to their underwear Thursday after one of the girls reported the money missing, said Principal Wilma Green. The money was not found.

"It's not illegal," La Marque Police Chief Richard Price said. "We don't see it as a criminal offense." But he said an investigation was underway.

The search angered at least one parent, who filed a complaint with police and pulled her four children out of the school.

"I have never signed a consent to let my kids be strip-searched - never," said Shelli Owens, the mother of a 12-year-old boy who was searched.

Green said the school has conducted such searches in the past without calling parents.

"Never had a complaint," she said. "I can't say if it happened again I wouldn't do the same thing."

In Thursday's search, the boys were sent off with a male teacher and the girls with a female teacher, who told them to strip to their underwear, Green said.

"Nobody objected to it. Most of the kids didn't mind because they wanted to get their name cleared," she said. "It was no different than what the students would be doing when they would be in P.E. We searched everything down to the socks."

La Marque is about 40 miles southeast of Houston.