A day after making controversial statements on this week's strip search of a teenaged student, Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc says he will now investigate the situation.
On Tuesday, Le Journal de Montréal published the story of a 15-year-old Neufchatel High School student who says she was asked to remove all of her clothes on school property, ostensibly so her teachers could ensure her undergarments weren't lined with drugs.
When asked about the incident, Bolduc said that this type of process was generally within schools' rights, adding that the important thing was to "respect the person," a crucial guideline for staff to keep in mind as they strip students of their dignity.
But the girl, who spoke to Le Journal on condition of anonymity, says she felt "violated" and "shamed" as the principal and another staff person (both women) "respectfully" held a blanket in front of her as she stripped down. She also claims a request to call her mother before the search took place was shot down.
She told Le Journal her ordeal started when she sent a joking text to a friend, asking him if he wanted pot. As luck would have it, that student's phone had been confiscated and the offending text was sent straight to a teacher.
The girl alleges school staff have been on her case since the school year started, suspecting her of selling drugs and regularly searching her locker.
In a press release defending the school's actions, the local school board clarified this wasn't a police-style cavity search and pointed out staff never touched the student. Rather, they say this was simply a close examination of the girl's clothing to ensure she wasn't hiding any illegal substances. And this, obviously, required the young teen to stand by in the nude.
Initial outrage over the story only escalated in response to Bolduc's comments. An online petition calling for the minister's "respectful" resignation has already gathered thousands of signatures.
In what is now the latest in a series of much-publicized flip-flops, Bolduc went back on his statement and has now committed to a closer examination of existing policy.
School board spokesperson Marie-Elaine Dion says that while her team will also revisit its procedures, exceptional measures like this are allowed when staff suspect the student has contravened the school's code of conduct and believe they'll find proof on the student's property.
The girl's mother says the school has gone too far and is considering taking legal action.
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