Strip searching children has made headlines again after a girl was strip-searched at her London school.
The 15-year-old Black girl was searched at her school in London after teachers claimed she smelt of marijuana.
The child had to spread her legs, spread her buttocks and cough. To add insult to injury, she was menstruating at the time.
No parent or guardian was present during the search.
Strip searching children: Met police under fire for racism
Police targetted the schoolgirl at her school in East London over unfounded suspicions she had cannabis.
She was taken to the medical room and two female officers strip-searched her , while teachers remained outside.
Her intimate body parts were exposed and the officers made her remove her sanitary pad.
According to her family members police wouldn’t allow her to go to the bathrooms to clean up. They also forced her to re-use the soiled pad.
A report found that racism was a likely factor in her treatment.
The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review published in March discussed the inherent racism due to adultification.
Adultification is where adults perceive black children as being older than they are because they see them as more “streetwise”.
In a written statement to the review, the girl said she wanted everyone who allowed the strip search to happen to “be held responsible”.
She said: “I need to know that the people who have done this to me can’t do it to anyone else ever again, in fact so no-one else can do this to any other child in their care.”
Investigators found that school staff deferred to the police’s authority and “should have been more challenging”.
The school accepted this criticism, with one staff member saying: “I have never known, nor would I condone, a strip-search of a young person on a school site.”
Treated as a criminal
The mother of the girl, known only as Child Q, said her daughter experienced treatment as if she was a criminal while at school. The mother feared her child suffered permanent harm.
She said: “Professionals treated her as an adult. She was searched as an adult. Is it because of her skin? Her hair? Why her? My daughter is a changed person. We try to reassure her but looking to the future, we can’t say she will ever recover.”
The family’s solicitor said race was a likely factor: “It is unlikely that Child Q would have been treated in this humiliating and degrading way had she not been black. Child Q and her family are hopeful that the recommendations of the review panel will be carefully considered and implemented so that another child is not exposed to a similar traumatic experience.”
The family statement revealed that searches of the child’s bag, blazer, scarf and shoes yielded nothing of note. Then, the strip-search occurred without an appropriate adult present.
Strip Searching children in New South Wales
In NSW, Police cannot strip-search any child under the age of 10.
Police may strip-search children over the age of ten in certain circumstances, however they must comply with safeguards.
Part 15 of LEPRA govern the use of strip searching individuals. These provisions state that police must suspect on “reasonable grounds” that a strip search is necessary. The provisions point to the “seriousness” and “urgency” of the circumstances required to invoke a strip search. A “reasonable suspicion” must therefore be more than a mere possibility.
Further, Police must allow for reasonable privacy, and must have a guardian or parent present. If the need to strip-search is urgent, they must note why a parent or guardian wasn’t contacted or be present.
If you or your child experienced an illegal strip search contact us immediately. Our lawyers can hold police to account for unlawful behaviour, including getting compensation for your distress.