School head apologises to students for search by police
The principal of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) has apologized to students who were searched by police officers last week, after a theft was reported at the school. An apology was also issued to the parents of the students involved.
Last Thursday, May 16, after a female student reported that her purse, containing EC$190, had been stolen, a security officer found the purse, minus the money, in the boys’ bathroom.
The police were called in and two officers, one male, the other female, visited the school, where they conducted searches on the boys and some of the girls who were in the classroom at the time the purse went missing.
Principal John Renton told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that boys who were in the class at the time were searched (in his office) because the purse was found in the male bathroom, while the girls who were closest to the desk from where the purse went missing were also searched.
“It was a significant amount of money, so we really wanted to recover it,” Renton explained.
But some parents have complained that the police officers made at least two of the female students squat.
Other students soon learned about the squatting request by the police officers and began teasing the students involved in the search, some yelling “squat” as they passed them later that day.
Renton said he observed the police officers asking the female students to squat, so he intervened after the second request and told them it was not appropriate to do this.
Squat searches are usually requested to check for items concealed in the body’s cavities, including the rectum or vagina.
The principal said that two parents complained personally to him and he apologized and gave them the assurance that in the future, incidents of theft will be handled differently.
Renton reiterated that students are discouraged from bringing cellular phones or large sums of money to school as thefts usually go unsolved.
The money from this latest incident was not recovered.
Section 142 (3) of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Education Act authorises the search of a student or his or her property once the teacher has reasonable grounds for believing that a student has in his or her possession any article that has been reported stolen.
The Education Act says the search must be conducted in the presence of an adult, other than the adult conducting the search; and search of a student’s property shall be conducted in the presence of
the student and another adult, other than the adult conducting the search.
Female students may only be searched by a female in the presence of another female, while male students may be searched by an adult of either sex in the presence of another adult of either sex.
The Act also says that the search shall be carried out in a private place whether on the school premises or elsewhere during school related activities, and no student, other than the student searched, shall be present during a search.