'Those responsible for strip-searching Black teen at school should be sued'

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I’d want the Headteacher sacked. The Head of Safeguarding sacked. The staff who abandoned that 15-year-old girl to those reprehensible police officers sacked.

I’d look at legal action for their individual and collective failure to act in loco parentis.

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I’d also be alerting other parents to the fact that this is a school in which their Black children are simply not safe. Then I’d go after the police.

Because, let’s not kid ourselves, this complete, unmitigated, abomination of a decision-making process should see heads roll, the school sued and charges follow.

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The facts are these: A review initiated by Hackney Council has revealed that a 15-year-old girl – referred to as ‘Child Q’ – was strip-searched at school by police without parental consent. In the knowledge that the girl was on her monthly period.

The child, who’d been taken out of an exam, had no appropriate adult present during the search, in the school’s medical room.

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She was stripped naked, made to bend over, spread her legs and use her hands to spread her buttocks while coughing. She’d been accused of smelling of cannabis and suspected of carrying drugs. None were found.

'Those responsible for strip-searching Black teen at school should be sued'

The police did not get permission from the girl's parents (Stock photo) ( Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“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,” the girl said in a statement, adding that she did not know if she would “ever feel normal again”.

As a father of two girls, the details of the case made me sick and angry. As someone born and bred in Hackney, I am heartbroken.

How on earth are people – I won’t call them professionals – like this in charge of children in the community where I grew up?

Why on earth would a school call the police simply because a 15-year-old smelled of cannabis? Why are the police even responding to that call?

Why do police need reminding that they cannot even interview or search – let alone strip search – a child without their parents or responsible adult present?

And why the hell was Child Q made to remove her sanitary pad in front of strangers before bending over and spreading her buttocks? She was a child in school, not an adult in jail.

It is easy to see why the decision makers in this disgraceful episode will fight to retain their anonymity. They are cowards, protected by reviews, investigations and inquiries that provide cover for their racism and incompetence.

Male and female friends of mine – with and without kids – admitted to being in tears at the level to which this girl was stripped of her dignity.

Some intend to use the energy from their anger to become school governors and ensure this kind of thing stops now. Many Black parents know it could easily be their child violated at the whim of a self-important staff member or police with zero empathy.

Because make no mistake, this would not have happened to a white child. The report admits that – even though we didn’t need it spelling out.

Not only that, it happened two years ago. Six months after George Floyd. During the spell within which every institution was supposedly conducting the kind of introspection that would educate and inform their approaches to situations involving Black and Brown people.

Many of us knew back then that in some cases it was all a sham. A cosmetic exercise. We simply didn’t know how much.

Even after the unnecessary calling of police for a 15-year-old girl, four – yes, four of them turned up. Two of them were women who carried out the intimate search of Child Q while the teachers remained outside the room and her mother was not contacted.

Child Q was then asked to go back into an exam without any teacher even asking her how she felt, knowing what she’d just gone through.

The report concluded Child Q had been subjected to “adultification” bias – where black children are held to adult standards, but their white peers are less likely to be.

Everyone in all sorts of positions of authority in Hackney has been up in arms over the whole thing.

'Those responsible for strip-searching Black teen at school should be sued'

Former Met Police Chief Dame Cressida Dick ( Image: PA)

Furthermore, a reprehensible incident like this can only take place when a culture persists. How many other young girls at that school and within the borough have been left to the mercy of officers so bereft of basic humanity and respect? And beyond their lengthy, soundbite-laden, playing-to-the-gallery statement, what are Hackney Council and all these authority figures doing about it?

Because it is hard to believe Child Q was the first to have been treated in such a despicable way by this school.

But it is the kind of thing that happens when the default setting of the people who should be protecting her is to treat her as scum. An animal. Not a human. Let see whether we get a government response to the question posed in the House of Commons by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper on Wednesday.

For those who defended the police in the wake of former Met Police Chief Dame Cressida Dick stepping down cannot possibly fail to understand why trust and confidence in that profession has all but evaporated.

This kind of thing has happened so often – too often – that apologies are simply not enough. The volume of cases like this is simply too high to claim we are talking about a few bad apples.

Not when Child Q has had to live with the trauma of such a violation (she has already been bullied at school over the incident).

Not when the child’s maternal aunt has revealed her niece has turned from a “a happy go lucky girl” to a “timid recluse” who hardly speaks to her.

Not when Child Q is now so traumatised that she is self-harming and needs therapy.

If I was her parent I’d sue, I’d prosecute and I’d go all out for justice. I’m sure you would too.

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