Strip-searching students suspected of selling or concealing drugs should be permitted so long as the searches are done “in a respectful fashion,” Quebec’s Education Minister, Yves Bolduc, told the Quebec National Assembly on Tuesday.
Bolduc was on hand responding to officials’ concerns about a Quebec City high school principal’s recent decision to strip-search a 15-year-old female student who was suspected of selling drugs.
“There are reasons for which we can be obliged to conduct searches,” Bolduc said, according to the Montreal Gazette. “What’s important is that we respect the law and respect the framework that was put in place (for searching students) and respect the person.”
News of the recent search broke in the French-language newspaper the Journal de Montreal last week, according to the Toronto Star.
The student, who hasn’t been named, said she sent a text message to a friend joking about selling him some marijuana.
The message was discovered by a teacher who confiscated the phone. The girl said school officials searched her locker and found no evidence of drugs. Then she was ordered to a room and asked to remove her clothing, she said. A request to call her mother was reportedly denied by school officials.
CBC News reports a female staff member held a blanket in front of the student while she removed her clothes. The principal then searched the clothes once they were removed.
In a news release, the local school board did not dispute the girl’s version of events and said the school staff acted within the boundaries of school policy that stipulates such searches are allowed as long as a screen or cover is used to protect the student. The policy also stipulates only clothes can be searched, not the student’s body, and two staff members must be present, preferably of the same gender.
The girl was quoted as saying the search left her feeling “intimidated” and “violated.” Her mother characterized the search as “excessive” and is considering legal action.
Bolduc declined to comment on the specific case Tuesday, but, instead, spoke broadly about strip-search policies.
“It’s a question of security. These interventions have to be conducted carefully and respect certain particular conditions,” he said. “And even if it’s not mentioned in the guidelines, it has to be done very respectfully.”