Racism cited as factor in police strip search of 15-year-old girl at London school | London
A black child was subjected to a strip search by police at his London school which involved the exposure of private body parts, according to an official investigation which found racism was likely to have been an ‘influencing factor ” in the actions of agents.
No suitable adult was present during the 15-year-old girl’s ordeal, described by a senior local authority official as ‘humiliating, traumatic and utterly shocking’ and which took place without parental consent and knowing she had her period.
Details of his treatment in the medical ward at his secondary school emerged in a child protection review initiated by Hackney council after the December 2020 incident.
The child was made to bend over, spread her legs and use her hands to spread her buttocks apart while coughing, and she is currently undergoing therapy and self-harming, according to statements by family members to the ‘investigation.
The damning report said: “Having considered the background to the incident, the opinions of those engaged in the review and the impact felt by Child Q and his family, racism (deliberate or not) was likely to have was an influential factor in the decision to undertake a strip search.
The report highlighted the importance of the question of whether the child was treated differently because she was black, adding that this issue was clearly reflected in several events that occurred around the same time.
“Significantly, approximately six months prior, George Floyd was tragically killed in the United States and there were repercussions around the world, including in the UK,” he said.
Police were called by teachers who told the examination they thought she smelled strongly of cannabis and suspected she was carrying drugs, but none were found during the subsequent search.
The school was visited by four officers, including two women, who searched the girl – referred to in the report as ‘Child Q’ – while teachers remained outside the hall and her mother was not contacted.
“Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked during my period,” the girl said in a statement, adding that she hadn’t. whether she would “feel normal again”.
The Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday they had apologized for what a senior officer described as the ‘truly regrettable’ treatment of the child, who was the subject of a separate investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), whose report is nearing completion.
But senior local council members were furiously critical of the force following the review, which found Child Q should never have been strip searched, and found there was a lack of approach to “preservation first” on the part of many professionals involved. .
One of the eight findings relates to school personnel deferring to the authority of the police upon arrival at school. He added: ‘They should have been more difficult for the police, seeking to clarify the actions they intended to take.’
Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney’s Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, and Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “We were appalled at all aspects of this review: the officers’ decision to strip search a child in his school; the school’s lack of challenge to the police; the absence of a requirement for the police to obtain parental consent when strip-searching a child.
“But most strikingly: this racism was probably an ‘influencing factor’ in the police’s decision to undertake the strip search.”
They added that the child’s ordeal was exacerbated by the fact that the strip search was carried out at school “a place where the child expected to be protected, protected and cared for. Instead, she was abandoned by those who were supposed to protect her.
The child’s mother said in statements provided for the exam that her daughter was searched by police and asked to retake an exam without any teacher asking how she was feeling, knowing what she had just crossed.
“Their position in the school is to be part of the protection team, but they didn’t act like they were part of that team. It makes me sick – the fact that my child had to take off his sanitary pad and put the same dirty pad back on because they wouldn’t allow him to use the toilet to clean himself.
The child’s maternal aunt said her niece had grown from a ‘happy, lucky girl’ to a ‘shy recluse’ who barely spoke to her. She was now so traumatized that she was self-harming and needed therapy.
In a letter, the aunt added: “The family does not believe the officers would have treated a white, menstruating girl the same.”
Those who carried out the review agreed, concluding that racism was likely to have been an “influencing factor” in the strip search, and that the child had been subjected to an “adultification” bias. — where black and global majority children are held to adult standards, but their white peers are less likely to be.
In a statement released by the Metropolitan Police, the force identified the girl as a 15-year-old girl and said the search was carried out after her bag and outer clothing had already been searched by school staff before the police arrived.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the case as “shocking and deeply disturbing” and said he would closely follow the results of the IOPC Fund’s investigation.
“I am extremely concerned about the findings of this report and no child should ever have to face a situation like this,” he said.
The search took place in the same area of London where the Met in January apologized and compensated an academic for “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language” used by officers about him during a strip search.