How do we keep our children safe from racism? The majority of children strip searched at schools are Black/Mixed race.
1.1 In 2020, Child Q, a Black female child of secondary school age, was strip searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
The search, which involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises, without an Appropriate Adult present and with the knowledge that Child Q was menstruating.
1.2 Teachers told the review that on the day of the search they believed Child Q was smelling strongly of cannabis and suspected that she might be carrying drugs. On questioning Child Q, she denied using or having any drugs in her possession. A search of her bag, blazer, scarf, and shoes revealed nothing of significance.
1.3 Remaining concerned, teachers sought advice from the Safer Schools Police Officer. Due to the restrictions arising from Covid-19, this officer was not on site. He recommended that the school call 101 and ask for a female officer to attend.
1.4 A male and female officer subsequently arrived at the school, followed by another two officers (one of whom was also female). After discussions between the police and teachers, Child Q was escorted to the medical room. She was subsequently strip searched.
1.5 No Appropriate Adult was in attendance, teachers remained outside the room and Child Q’s mother was not contacted in advance. No drugs were found during either the strip search or a search of the room in which Child Q had been waiting beforehand.
1.6 Child Q was later allowed to return home where she disclosed the events to her mother. Child Q described how she had been strip searched whilst menstruating. Due to the level of her distress, Child Q’s mother took her to the family GP who made a referral for psychological support. This led to contact with Hackney Children and Families Services (Hackney CFS).
1.7 Given these circumstances, a Rapid Review was initiated by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP). The Rapid Review report was submitted to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (the Panel) in early 2021. As part of its response, the Panel made the following suggestion.
‘We noted your decision to carry out a local child safeguarding practice review (LCSPR) but would encourage you to think carefully about whether one is necessary as we felt that this case was not notifiable and did not meet the criteria for an LCSPR.’