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Quebec reviewing policies after strip search of girl, 15, at school

MONTREAL—The Quebec government is naming an independent expert to review and revise a controversial policy that allowed school officials to strip search a 15-year-old female student who was suspected of selling drugs.

After initially defending the actions of officials at a Quebec City high school, Education Minister Yves Bolduc announced Wednesday that his department would be examining the rules permitting students to be physically searched in cases where a breach of school rules is suspected.

“Given the important issues raised in the case . . . we will be asking someone who is independent and outside of the school board to evaluate what happened, produce a report and, at that time, we will decide based on the facts what should be done in the future,” Bolduc told the Quebec national assembly.

The about-face comes after it was reported that the girl was ordered to take off her clothes and underwear in the presence of two female staff at the school who wanted to search her clothing for drugs. The student had earlier sent a text message to classmate offering to sell him marijuana ― something she told the Journal de Montréal was a joke.

The girl said her request to make a telephone call to her mother before the strip search occurred was refused.

The school board said this was an “exceptional case” and stressed that the employees who carried out the search were acting in accordance with provincial guidelines.

Bolduc had previously said in-school security took precedence in this case and that strip-searching a student was acceptable so long as it was done “respectfully.”

Education ministry documents dealing with the practice note that the law is on the side of the teachers. A 1998 Supreme Court of Canada decision said that officials at a Nova Scotia school were right to search and seize a bag of marijuana from a male student because they have a responsibility for maintaining safety and security on their territory. In that case, the student was not strip searched.

The opposition Parti Québécois called on the provincial Liberal government to immediately ban strip searches in schools, to ensure that parents are notified before their child is subjected to a search and to establish new guidelines setting out when and how students can be searched on school premises.

“I think that parents were stunned to learn that such a thing could happen without them being warned,” said PQ education critic Nicole Leger. “For us it’s clear. Parents need to be advised. The case we’re talking about involved a young, underaged girl. It’s ridiculous.”

Information - thestar.com

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