Video: Georgia high school drug search leads to $3M class-action lawsuit

SYLVESTER, Ga. (WALB) — A drug search at a Georgia high school found no drugs — and led to accusations of inappropriate police conduct.

A class-action lawsuit is close to a settlement–according to the attorneys involved –to the tune of $3 million.

It all started several months ago, when Sheriff Jeff hobby ordered his deputies to do a pat down on every student at Worth County high school.

He was looking for drugs, but didn’t find any that day. Students described the search as intrusive and inappropriate.

One student described the incident:  “And then she went around my belt loop, and she put her fingers around the inside and just conducted like that.”

One parent said, “She was underneath her panty line.”

Parents were outraged about the search, forming groups, including one group who hired Atlanta-based attorney, Mark Begnaud, to represent them in a civil suit.

He and the other attorneys involved in that suit say they came to a settlement today for $3 million.

WALB News spoke with Begnaud over the phone, who says the settlement is a win for those who value civil liberties.

According to Begnaud, “We also hope this settlement sends a message to law enforcement beyond south Georgia or beyond Georgia that this abuse of power is not tolerated.”

Raleigh Rollins represents sheriff hobby and multiple deputies in the case.

He says Worth County taxpayers are not responsible for paying the money. And the county entered an insurance coverage agreement that covers the county in civil cases like this.

Attorneys reached an agreement, but the settlement is not official yet.

It must first be approved by the U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams.

If approved, the money will be dispersed between a number of people.

The suit is a class-action lawsuit meaning every student involved in the search will get monetary compensation.

Begnaud said,  “The way the class actions typically works is that the named plaintiffs represent the entire class, so it’s the entire class of people who were searched who would be involved in the payout, other than anybody who would opt out.”

Begnaud also said students who were searched will get anywhere from $1,000-$6,000 each. Students subjected to more invasive searches will get higher amounts.

Once all claims are resolved and attorney fees paid, the rest of the settlement will go into a fund to benefit worth county high school students.

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