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Parents left in the dark as drugs police strip-search ten boys at a village school

14 March 2012 10,880 views One Comment

By ANDY DOLAN and LAURA CLARK Mail
Without seeking parental consent, officers took the pupils to a private room before ordering them to remove their uniform and checking inside their underwear. Two boys – aged 15 and 16 – were arrested over the discovery of suspicious substances.
Although officers insisted last night they were acting within the law, angry parents condemned their actions.Ten male students were strip-searched by police at John Port School, in Etwall – an academy judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted
Their families became aware of what had happened only when phoned by staff from the highly-regarded state secondary, John Port School, in Etwall, Derbyshire.
Police said the decision not to warn parents was taken in case it ‘adversely affected the operation’.
They insisted the children, all in year 11, were searched by one officer in the presence of a second officer and an ‘appropriate adult’, thought to be the school’s assistant head. All were male.
The incident at John Port, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted and sends most of its pupils to university, is thought to be the first of its kind in a school.
The mother of one of the boys searched said her son, who was not arrested, was left distraught.
Head teacher Wendy Sharp said her school takes a zero-tolerance approach to drugs. South Derbyshire section commander, Inspector Paul Cannon (right), co-ordinated the strip searches
She added: ‘He’s very embarrassed. I feel my child has been victimised. For police to actively go into the school and physically strip-search your child without your permission or knowledge, I’m outraged as I’m sure any parent would be.’
Margaret Morrissey, founder of lobby group Parents Outloud, demanded clearer guidance for schools and police in the battle against drugs.
Teachers gained new powers to search pupils for drugs, alcohol and stolen goods in 2009.This gives them the legal right to frisk pupils and search school bags without consent in a crackdown on bad behaviour.The move extended the existing right of teachers to look for weapons.It was designed to stamp out a culture of drug-taking and underage drinking that is developing in schools.
The then Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the powers would ensure all pupils knew that a ‘teacher’s authority in the classroom is unquestionable’.
But teaching leaders warned that staff could face false allegations of assault from pupils as a result. Schools can already look for weapons by removing children’s jackets and jumpers and ‘patting down’ their clothing. They can also screen them using the sort of metal detectors seen at airports.But while they can ask pupils suspected of possessing drugs to turn out their pockets and open their bags, only police can frisk for drugs or other items. Margaret Morrissey continued
Staff must call their local police if they believe a search is warranted.
‘It’s absolutely tragic this is happening in our schools,’
‘But I don’t believe you can physically strip-search pupils without their parents knowing or being present. I can understand why they have done it, but it does not give them the right to bypass parents.‘It seems strange that parents were not contacted, or collected and brought into the school, before these searches took place.‘They have got to be told it’s happening as they are legally responsible for them.’ She said the tactics could damage trust in the police and give young people an excuse to criticise them. Officers said the operation was carried out using powers provided by the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Inspector Paul Cannon of Derbyshire Police said: ‘We had very specific intelligence about how the drugs were being brought into the school and the fact they were being brought in in the children’s underwear.
‘We have a duty to investigate criminality and, particularly with drugs, protect vulnerable people from coming into contact with these drugs.’
He told BBC Radio Derby yesterday: ‘We didn’t go as far as we can do in a strip search. The power to strip search gives us the right to remove all outer clothes and ask the person being searched to bend over to show any crevices. We didn’t feel that was necessary in this case. The evidence was very specific about where the drugs were kept.’Mr Cannon said the operation had two priorities – to obtain the drugs and arrest any suspects.
Telling parents before the searches took place may have jeopardised this, he said, insisting police would do the same again if necessary.
The two boys were arrested on suspicion of possession of controlled drugs and have been released on bail while the suspicious substances are analysed.
Headmistress Wendy Sharp said: ‘This is not normal procedure but the police assured us three times that they were acting within the law.’ She rejected suggestions the school had called police in specifically to search the pupils.
She said that last Thursday, officers came to her with ‘community intelligence’ about a possible drug problem and she agreed to their request to search specific pupils.Two boys, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and later bailed pending the results of forensic tests
Mrs Sharp, described as an exceptional headteacher by Ofsted, said the school did not have a particular problem with drugs.But she added: ‘We don’t want drugs in our school and you cannot be serious about tackling drugs unless you are prepared to work with the police on the issue.’In a letter to parents explaining the incident, Mrs Sharp said two students had been suspended ‘without prejudice’, pending the outcome of the police investigation.She added that any student found transgressing the school’s zero tolerance policy on drugs would be expelled.
Julie Smith, 35, a cook with a daughter in year 9, said: ‘If I saw drug dealing then I would be phoning the police so I do take the issue seriously but I would have wanted to have consented to a strip search.
‘I am really shocked because there has been nothing sent to parents about a drug problem at the school so it has come out of the blue.’
And Steve Steves, 44, who runs a chip shop opposite the school and whose son is in year 11, said: ‘If my lad had been strip-searched without my knowledge I would have been very upset.’John Port became an academy last April with special technology status. It caters for 2,000 pupils aged from 11 to
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2114286/Parents-left-dark-drugs-police-strip-search-boys-village-school.html#ixzz1p8HK1zwq

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One Comment »

  • Margaret (author) said:

    It obviously would have been crazy to inform parents before the police arrived at the school but the boys should have been brought together and then parents inform and asked if they wished to be there. The law allows police to do this search and of course we need to keep drugs out of our schools it is tragic young lives are being ruined in this way. Government need to spend time and money finding drug pushers we need the people who sell or give this terrible drugs to our children or to anyone

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