Pubdate: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily News.
Author: Rivonia Naidu
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Pupils at Sastri College in Durban were furious after they were pulled
out of classes and strip-searched by police during a drug raid on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Daily News after the incident the pupils, mostly
girls, said they felt violated as they were asked to strip down to
their underwear in the presence of policewomen and other pupils.

The pupils, who were called out during their lessons, said while they
were not frisked by police, they "felt very uncomfortable" by the search.

'We were never told we could refuse to take our clothes off' Some were
in tears after the raid. A grade 10 pupil said she was randomly
selected by police while she was in her classroom and asked to follow
them to the female toilets.

"We were left standing there in our underwear. We were never told we
could refuse to take our clothes off or that the police were coming to
raid the school," she said.

A grade 11 pupil said even though none of the pupils in her class were
searched, they were asked to hand over any illegal substances.

"They asked if we had anything on us like drugs or cigarettes. Only
one pupil handed over cigarettes," she said.

Pupils also said the police informed them that they would be returning
to the school next week. It is believed that knives were found on some
pupils and teachers confiscated cellphones.

Principal Vis Moodley said parents had signed a document sent out last
year granting the school consent to conduct random searches of this
nature. He said in view of the recent increase in drug consumption in
schools, these searches were necessary.

He also said he suspected girls as young as 14 and 15 were using and
carrying drugs, and in some cases to a larger extent than the boys.

In terms of the raid Moodley said: "The girls were taken to the
toilets and the boys were searched outside.

"I cannot comment on what happened in the toilets but no one
complained of any harmful occurrences."

Moodley also said most parents welcomed the random searches that were
occurring throughout the city.

Police spokesperson Inspector Michael Read said police conducted the
search at the request of the principal. He said Durban schools were
being raided and pupils were searched on a regular basis and while
police could carry out random searches, most of the time, searches
were carried out on instruction of school management.

When asked if police were allowed to strip-search pupils without
parental consent, he said the onus was on the principal to inform
pupils and parents of such a search.

"In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act police are allowed to
strip-search pupils if they have reasonable suspicion.

"The pupils have the right to say no, upon which their parents or
guardian would be called in and the search would be conducted," he

He could not confirm if pupils were informed of their right to say no
to the search.

Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) Jodi Kollapen, said
in accordance with the law, police could conduct such searches.
however pupils should be informed of their rights.

"What this incident highlights is the need for a clear national policy
as to how we should deal with drugs and violence at schools and how
pupils should be searched," he said.

Chairperson of the KZN Parents' Association Sayed Rajack said he could
not condone the manner in which the drug raid was carried out.

"We fought for a democracy where children's rights would be upheld and
they would be treated as first class citizens. These sort of actions
are a violation of those rights. While I understand the need to curb
the use of alcohol and drugs in schools, it must be done in a manner
that would respect the child," he said.

KwaZulu-Natal education spokesperson Christi Naude said the department
could not comment as they would have to investigate the matter further.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek