Strip Searches in School: What the Law Says

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There are no court cases that deal directly with the right of school authorities to do strip searches on students. But there are some decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada that can guide us on this delicate subject.


The Right of School Authorities to Conduct Searches

In a 1998 case, the Supreme Court said that school authorities can search a student if they have good reasons to think that

  • a student has disobeyed school rules, and
  • the search will prove the student disobeyed the rules.

The search must be in proportion to what the student did. The search must be conducted in a sensitive manner and be minimally intrusive. The student's age and sex must be taken into consideration.


Strip Searches - An Invasion of Privacy

In 2001, the Supreme Court dealt with a strip search done by a police officer after an arrest.

The court defined a strip search as follows: "the removal or rearrangement of some or all of the clothing of a person so as to permit a visual inspection of a person's private areas, namely genitals, buttocks, breasts (in the case of a female), or undergarments".

The Supreme Court clearly said that strip searches are highly intrusive. The court said that strip searches can be "humiliating, embarrassing and degrading." The police must have good reasons to do them, and they should only be done in rare cases.

 

To learn more, read our article on searches at school in the Youth Zone.