A pupil’s wellbeing must be considered, government guidance says, following the case of Child Q.
Schools should consider whether strip-searching a pupil is “absolutely necessary”, before involving police, government guidance says.
The Department for Education says staff must make sure “less invasive” approaches have been tried first.
And when a police strip-search is instigated, staff must “advocate for pupil wellbeing at all times”.
The guidance follows the 2020 strip-search of a 15-year-old girl, known as Child Q, in an east London school.
A safeguarding report, published in March, found this search unjustified and racism “likely” to have been a factor.
The guidance, published on Wednesday and coming into force in September, says staff should “assess and balance the risk of a potential strip-search on the pupil’s physical and mental wellbeing and the risk of not recovering the suspected item”.
“Once the police are on school premises, the decision on whether to conduct a strip-search lies solely with them,” it says, “and the role of the school is to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of the pupil(s) involved.”
The guidance also stresses:
“Schools should keep records of strip-searches that have been conducted on school premises and monitor them for any trends that emerge,” it adds.
Child Q was taken out of an exam to the school’s medical room and strip-searched for cannabis by two female Met Police officers while teachers remained outside.
No other adult was present and her parents were not contacted. No drugs were found.
It is being seen as a step in the right direction – but many will be wondering why this advice was not made clear previously, when it seems like common sense.
Words will go only so far – and what is really needed, according to child-safety campaigners, is improvements to staff training to ensure black children are treated with the same fairness, dignity and respect in schools as their peers.
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