Before a math exam, staff at a Quebec high school asked students to put their cell phones on a teacher's desk to prevent any cheating. But when one of those phones seemed unaccounted for, the staff decided to go to any lengths to find it, reports Canada's QMI news service, including a strip search. The local school board has launched an investigation into the incident at Cap-Jeunesse high school in St. Jerome, in which the employees allegedly asked the 28 10th-grade students to remove their clothes, one at a time.
"They put us in a small room," one girl told the QMI Agency. "[They said] 'take off your bra, then raise your arms. They even tapped us on the back.'"
When the incident came to light last week, it made national news in Canada. The Cap-Jeunesse school board spokeswoman told QMI that its teachers had diverged from school policy, calling it "a disproportionate action under the circumstances," and said an investigation was ongoing.
"Is this a school or prison?" asked one U.S. news outlet when the story slipped south of the border this week. It was an apt question: Not only are strip searches a matter of course in the criminal justice system, but one of the most recent strip search controversies occurred at the Portsmouth City Jail.
In 2011, nine women who worked for jail contractors sued, claiming that they'd been forced to undergo visual body-cavity searches. "I just cried like a baby," one of the women, a mental health counselor, said of the experience. "I'm almost 60 years old, and I cried like a baby." But last month a jury refused to award the women damages, even though it found that some of the searches were unwarranted.
Strip searches may become more common, though. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not prohibit the government from strip searching people, even if only charged with minor offenses.
It's unclear whether hiding a cell phone from a teacher would count, however. And anyway, that happened in Canada.
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