Pubdate: Thu, 19 Feb 2015
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network
Author: Marian Scott
Page: A20


Joyce Shanks doesn't want to contemplate what she'd do if her child 
were strip-searched at school.

"I would lose it and so would my husband," said Shanks, whose 
daughter attends Grade 7 at a school in a Montreal suburb.

The debate over the strip search of a 15- year-old girl at a Quebec 
City high school on Feb. 12 forced Education Minister Yves Bolduc to 
backtrack on comments made Tuesday that condoned the search of the 
girl, who was suspected of carrying marijuana.

On Wednesday, he vowed to reexamine the policy allowing such searches 
by school staff.

"We will ask a person external to and independent of the school board 
to evaluate what happened, write a report, and, at that moment, we 
will see based on the facts what we should do in the future," Bolduc 
said in the National Assembly.

He told reporters the day before that school officials can strip 
search pupils on suspicion that they are selling drugs, as long as 
the search is done "respectfully" and according to the rules. He was 
commenting on a report saying staff at a high school in Quebec City 
instructed the pupil to remove her clothes and checked them for drugs.

The school board that oversees Neufchatel High School said Tuesday it 
will launch its own investigation. Marie- Elaine Dion, a board 
spokeswoman, said such searches are "exceptional."

"In our practices, only clothes are searched, not the individual. 
There is no direct contact with the student to frisk them," she said.

Parti Quebecois education critic Nicole Leger pounced on the controversy.

"All the parents of Quebec are troubled by this situation," she said.

Using a very apt expression, she urged Bolduc to take a stand: 
"Mettez vos culottes!" ("Put your pants on!")

Later in the halls of the assembly, she told journalists that Bolduc 
has "trivialized" the incident by depicting it as an isolated case. 
She demanded that Quebec ban the practice in schools.

Bolduc's press aide, Yasmine Abdelfadel, pointed out that strip 
searches of students are allowed under the rules outlined in a 
provincial police guidebook for teachers, which was based on a 1998 
Supreme Court case.

The case involved a junior high school vice-principal who, in front 
of a plain clothes RCMP officer, searched two students suspected of 
selling marijuana on school property. The decision supported the 
right to search students on "reasonable grounds," but specified that 
it must be conducted in a "sensitive manner" and be "minimally intrusive."

The decision was put to the test eight days later. On Dec. 8, 1998, a 
principal and gym teacher in a high school in southwestern Ontario 
strip-searched 20 ninth-grade boys, looking for stolen money. The 
incident was widely condemned and led to a mass student walkout the next day.

Angela Campbell, associate dean of graduate studies in law at McGill 
University, said telling a student to strip naked does not seem 
justified in the circumstances. "This is not a case of a person who 
was carrying a weapon or anything destructive and the person was 
asked to strip to completely nothing," she said.

Schools have the right to search students' belongings, but the 
"search has to be reasonable and the search also has to be consistent 
with the idea of personal dignity," she said.
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