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  • Writer's pictureFarah Benis

Child Q: A Wake-Up Call for Reform in UK School Searches

The case of "Child Q" in a London school has sparked widespread public outrage and concern. The teenager, referred to as Child Q, was strip-searched by female Met officers in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at her east London school. The strip search prompted days of protests in Hackney after it emerged the schoolgirl was searched without another adult present and with the knowledge that she was menstruating. Her parents were not contacted. The local child safeguarding practice review, conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), concluded the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified, and that racism "was likely to have been an influencing factor".

Strip searches in schools are a serious violation of students' privacy and bodily autonomy. This practice can also have long-lasting traumatic effects on students, particularly for girls and young women who are already vulnerable and marginalised.

In the UK, black children are already disproportionately subjected to stop and searches compared to other demographic groups. According to data from the UK Home Office, black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. This disparity is rooted in systemic racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system. Black communities in the UK have long faced over-policing and unjust treatment by law enforcement, which has eroded trust and damaged relationships between the police and these communities.

Studies have shown that stop and search is not an effective tool for reducing crime and is often used to target marginalised communities, including black people and young people, particularly young black men. This over-policing and harassment can have serious negative impacts on the mental health, education, and future prospects of the children and young people who are subjected to it. The UK must work to ensure that its criminal justice system is fair and equitable and that all children and young people are protected from discrimination and harassment.

Women's rights activists and child welfare advocates are calling for an immediate end to strip searches in schools and for stricter regulations to ensure that student's rights are protected. They are also calling for greater transparency and accountability in the educational system so that cases like this do not happen in the future. Thus far, no statements have been made on what repercussions, if any, have been faced by the employees of the school who thought it was appropriate to call in the police over "the suspected smell of marijuana".

It is important to note that strip searches are not only a violation of human rights, but they can also be illegal under UK law. In order to prevent further instances of this harmful practice, it is crucial that schools, teachers, and educational authorities are held accountable and that proper protocols are established to protect students' rights and dignity. We need urgent reforms in the criminal justice system to address systemic racism and discrimination and to ensure that all people, regardless of their race or ethnicity, are treated fairly and with dignity.


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