What Happened to Child Q…
Trigger warning: Child Q, racism, institutional racism.
We are horrified to hear the news that a fifteen-year-old girl was strip-searched at school for smelling like cannabis. After an initial search of her bag, blazer, scarf, and shoes revealed nothing of significance, the school called the police. Child Q was then taken to the medical room where she was strip searched by two female police officers, with teachers standing outside. This was done in the knowledge that Child Q was menstruating at the time. Child Q was made to take her pad off in front of strangers, and she was not allowed to go to the toilet to replace it with a fresh one, despite asking to. No appropriate adult was ever contacted. No drugs were found. A Local Safeguarding Practice review has been made into the incident.
The profound injustice of this is put into words by Child Q:
“Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from the people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period.”
Unsurprisingly, this incident has had an incredibly detrimental effect on Child Q’s mental well-being. Her mother and maternal aunt reflect on Child Q self-harming, needing therapy, and having panic attacks since the incident. Her maternal aunt spoke out,
“I see the change from a happy go lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks to me…”
Some of the findings from the report:
- The decision to strip search Child Q was insufficiently attuned to her best interests or right to privacy.
- 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.
- 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.
The review makes a point of not revealing too much about Child Q’s identity. This is because ‘was no reasonable justification’ for it happening. This is so crucial. It does not matter who her family are, what her school records are like, what her home like is life – this should not have happened. Child Q should not have had to go through that ordeal.
Child Q is vocal about not wanting this to happen to another child, “…… I need to know that the people who have done this to me can’t do it to anyone else ever again. In fact so NO ONE else can do this to any other child in their care.”
Daneisha, production manager at Little Box of Books, expressed her feelings on the incident as a parent of a black daughter.
“Children of colour, particularly black children in the school system are being judged and treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin.
Parents have trusted the schools to protect their children: not to allow police to abuse and violate them. These children already fear the police and this fear should not be enforced in this way whilst they are at school, in what should be a safe environment.
We need to do more to protect our black children, they need to feel safe in a place they spend so much of their time in. And they should also be able to place their trust in the hands of their academic support.”
Turning outrage into action
The racist element of this incident cannot be denied. Imagine the outrage if this had happened to a white girl. As a result, we need to further the anti-racism cause. Here is what you can do:
- Educate yourself – https://www.runnymedetrust.org/ is a really good resource
- Identify your own racial prejudices and work through them… Nova Reid’s course and book are brilliant for this. https://novareid.com/
- Highlight this case to the headteacher, the governors and PTA at the school your children attend.
- Find out whether the school has any anti racist policies and training in place for staff and whether that is something that could be initiated.
- Check diversity of library and texts they’re studying in class – highlight if they centre white experience
- We have a book bundle of works by black authors and illustrators
- Give money to anti racism educators such as the:
What Child Q went through is unacceptable and abhorrent. Child Q could not turn to her school or the police, because they were her perpetrators.
Finally, we end on Child Q’s words,
“All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible. I was held responsible for a smell.”