Strip-searches in high schools OK, Quebec education minister says
Published Tuesday, February 17, 2015 6:54PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 17, 2015 9:58PM EST
Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc says students can be strip-searched in the province’s high schools under “strict” guidelines and in a “respectful” manner.
Bolduc told the National Assembly Tuesday that strip searches are reasonable when student security is in question.
His made the comments after a 15-year-old girl told a Quebec newspaper that she felt violated during a strip search at her Quebec City high school. The girl said school officials suspected her of selling drugs and told her to take her clothes off behind a screen for inspection.
The girl said the principal and another female staff member searched all of her clothes, including her bra and underwear, looking for pot. They didn’t find any, the girl said.
Bolduc said Tuesday that schools must take drug allegations seriously.
“When we suspect drug trafficking we want to protect our youth; it’s a security issue,” he said.
“These searches must follow a very strict protocol with specific conditions. And I would add, even though it’s not in the protocol, to add the human side, it must be done very respectfully. “
Bolduc said students who are being searched take their clothes off behind a curtain and hand them over to a staff member to be inspected. Students are never naked in front of school officials, he said.
The school board said there must be “reasonable grounds to suspect a rule was broken and the evidence can be found on the student.” It also said that only clothes are searched, not the student’s body.
But although the courts have granted schools the right to search students’ lockers, a strip search of any kind is in an entirely different category, legal experts say.
“It’s a very different level of invasion of privacy if you are forced to take off your clothes, especially as a 15-year-old girl,” Toronto criminal lawyer Boris Bytensky told CTV News.
Most school boards across the country say their policy is clear: if a school official suspects that a student has drugs, the matter would be turned over to police.
However, Bolduc said it would be inappropriate to send police into schools to conduct strip searches.
With a report from CTV’s Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin and files from CTV Montreal