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Family Outraged After 15-Yr-Old Girl is Strip-Searched by Police in School

The family of a 15-year-old Black girl says she was subjected to a “humiliating and traumatic incident” when she was strip-searched by police at her London school on December 3, 2020.

Details of the child’s treatment has recently emerged from a child safeguarding investigation conducted by the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP).

According to the investigation, teachers at the child’s school believed she was in possession of marijuana after they claimed to smell it on her. They questioned her and she denied having any drugs. They searched her bag, blazer, scarf and shoes, and still found no drugs. 

The teen was then escorted to the school’s medical room where she waited until four Metropolitan Police officers – two male and two female – arrive. 

At this point the 15-year-old is subjected to a strip search by the two female officers. 

According to the investigation, during the search, the child — who was on her period — was told to remove her underwear and sanitary pad for a visual inspection of her intimate parts. She was then told to bend over, spread her legs and use her hands to spread her buttocks while coughing. 

No drugs were found on her, nor in the room she had been waiting in, which was also searched.

After the search, the distressed and humiliated girl was sent back to class to take an exam. At no time before, during or after the strip search was her family contacted. The girl’s family didn’t become aware of the incident until she returned home later that day. The teen was so distressed that they took her to a doctor who referred her for psychological support.

The investigation concluded that the search was unjustified and that the teen, referred to as Child Q, had been ‘exposed to a traumatic incident’ and ‘suffered harm.’

According to the review, the child has been mentally scarred by the experience which has led to her self-harming and has changed her from a ‘happy-go-lucky’ girl to a ‘recluse.’

In a written statement, the child explained how she has been changed by the incident:

‘Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from the people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period.

‘I can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up.

‘I feel like I’m locked in a box, and no one can see or cares that I just want to go back to feeling safe, my box is collapsing, and no one wants to help. I don’t know if I’m going to feel normal again. I don’t know how long it will take to repair my box. But I do know this can’t happen to anyone, ever again.’

The investigation also concluded that it believes the strip search was racially motivated. 

“Racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search,” the report said. “The review is clear that the strip search should never have happened and there was no reasonable justification of it.”

Police in Hackney have since apologized, admitting the search took place without the presence of an appropriate adult.

Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland of the Met’s Central East Command said: ‘We recognize the findings of the safeguarding review reflect that this incident should never have happened. It is truly regrettable and, on behalf of the Met Police, I would like to apologize to the child concerned, her family and the wider community.’

‘It is wholly right that the actions of officers are held to scrutiny and we welcome this review which was commissioned by the statutory partnership with the support of police. We have reminded local officers of the appropriate policies around searches in schools.’

In a letter to the review, the child’s mother wrote: ‘Do you think it appropriate for a black girl to be searched without a parent or family member? Would you allow your child to be strip-searched and questioned without consent?

‘Why doesn’t my child deserve the same rights as every other? Is this because they think she is a girl with no respect for adults and no fear of consequences or because she is a black child in a poor city area?’

The girl and her family are now taking civil action against the Met and her school. On Friday, hundreds of people gathered at Stoke Newington Police Station in north-east London to demand justice for her. She issued a statement saying “I know I am not alone,” while thanking the “thousands of people across the world” who have supported her.

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