An official investigation has determined racism likely played an “influencing factor” when London police officers exposed the private parts of a Black student while strip-searching her at her school. The 15-year-old student was also menstruating at the time.
According to The Guardian, the December 2020 incident occurred after teachers called the police on the Black student because they felt she was smelling like marijuana and also suspected she was in possession of drugs. Two female officers were among the four law enforcement officials who went to the school. And the female officers conducted the search.
But while searching the Black teen, there wasn’t any other adult around. No permission was also sought from her parents, and the search was conducted despite the fact that they were aware the girl was menstruating.
The child was reportedly instructed to bend over and spread her legs. She also had to spread her buttocks with her hands. But no drugs were found. A senior local authority official labeled the Black teen’s ordeal as “humiliating, traumatising and utterly shocking.”
“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 report by the Hackney council stated.
The report also highlighted the argument of whether the girl’s treatment stemmed from her race, The Guardian reported. The report stated that inquiry had manifested in a number of events that had happened around the time of the incident.
“Significantly, some six months prior, George Floyd was tragically killed in the USA and there were repercussions around the globe, including in the UK,” the report stated.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan police apologized for the incident. A senior official labeled the Black teen’s treatment as “truly regrettable.” The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is also conducting a different investigation into the incident.
“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,” the girl, named in the report as “Child Q”, said in a statement. She also said she can’t tell if she would “ever feel normal again.”
Senior officials at the local council also called out the police for their handling of the incident, saying a strip-search shouldn’t have even been conducted on the Black teen. They said the majority of the individuals involved in the incident did not ensure a “safeguarding-first” approach.
The report also stated the teachers “should have been more challenging to the police, seeking clarity about the actions they intended to take.”
After the search, the child’s mother also revealed her daughter was made to sit an exam without any teacher asking about her welfare. That was despite being aware of her treatment.
“Their position in the school is being part of the safeguarding team, but they were not acting as if they were a part of that team. This makes me sick – the fact that my child had to take her sanitary towel off and put the same dirty towel back on because they would not allow her to use the restroom to clean herself,” she said in a statement.
The child’s maternal aunt also stated the incident had a negative impact on her niece as she had transformed from “a happy go lucky girl” to a “timid recluse” who rarely spoke with her, The Guardian reported.
“The family do not believe that the officers would have treated a Caucasian girl child who was on her monthly periods in the same way,” her aunt added in a letter.
The incident was also condemned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.