The Association of Child Protection Professionals believes that no child should be subjected to such an ordeal as that experienced by Child Q.
School should be a safe place for children. All schools should reflect on the experience of Child Q and consider the harm that the adultification of Black children does through disproportionate responses and sanctions which results in the over-policing of Black children. This has a direct and negative impact on their emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing.
The City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership report identified that policy was not followed. Child Q was taken into a medical room to have an intimate body search which should only be reserved where there is suspicion of Class A drugs. The allegation was she smelled of cannabis and no drugs were found on her or in her belongings.
All children should feel safe in schools. Parents should feel reassured that their children will be kept safe and that the correct policies, practice, and procedures are followed. The intimate, traumatic and disproportionate search by police took place without a trusted adult present, which was contrary to agreed policy, and in the knowledge that she was menstruating.
The report concluded that the strip-search was unjustified and that racism ‘was likely to have been an influencing factor’.
The report found that the impact on Child Q was ‘profound’ and the repercussions ‘obvious and ongoing’. Family members described her as changing from a ‘happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks’, who now self-harms and needs therapy. The AoCPP sincerely hopes that she and her family are receiving the professional support that clearly now need.
This report is important and should be widely read by those who are involved with the safeguarding of children. The AoCPP intends to hold an event for safeguarding professionals to consider how such incidents can be avoided in the future and to reflect on how the adultification of Black children impacts on their welfare.
Key Findings of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Report
Finding 1: The school was fully compliant with expected practice standards when responding to its concerns about Child Q smelling of cannabis and its subsequent search of Child Q’s coat, bag, scarf and shoes. This demonstrated good curiosity by involved staff and an alertness to potential indicators of risk.
Finding 2: The decision to strip search Child Q was insufficiently attuned to her best interests or right to privacy.
Finding 3: School staff deferred to the authority of the police on their arrival at school. They should have been more challenging to the police, seeking clarity about the actions they intended to take. All practitioners need to be mindful of their duties to uphold the best interests of children.
Finding 4: School staff had an insufficient focus on the safeguarding needs of Child Q when responding to concerns about suspected drug use.
Finding 5: The application of the law and policy governing the strip searching of children can be variable and open to interpretation.
Finding 6: The absence of any specific requirement to seek parental consent when strip searching children undermines the principles of parental responsibility and partnership working with parents to safeguard children.
Finding 7: The Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time appeared to have frustrated effective communication between school staff and the Safer Schools Officer.
Finding 8: Having considered the context of the incident, the views of those engaged in the review and the impact felt by Child Q and her family, racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search.
Read the full report here.