A 15-year-old Black girl in London was strip searched at school in December 2020 after her teacher claimed they smelled weed. The girl was taken to a medical room of her school where police officers forced her to take off all of her clothes and remove her sanitary pad to prove she didn't have drugs. Her teacher waited outside.
An investigation into the incident reveals the search took place without her parents' consent or knowledge, and has left the child traumatized. The local council's official report listed racism as a likely influencing factor that led to the incident ––that the child, identified as "Child Q" wouldn't have been subjected to an inappropriate search if she weren't Black.
Three officers have been placed under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over their involvement in the incident, though they still remain on duty. One official, Jess Philips, who serves as the Shadow Minister for domestic violence and safeguarding described the incident as an act of child abuse.
"I cannot for one second imagine why any of these professionals thought this was in any way acceptable. Remember what it was like to be 15? This seems as if it was designed to humiliate and show power, the act of an abuser," Phillips said.
Child Q released a statement this week via her family's attorney that says: "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. I can't go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry, or just give up. I don't know if I'm going to feel normal again. But I do know this can't happen to anyone else ever again."
Child Q's parents say their daughter is "a changed person" and is currently in therapy after self-harming.
"Professionals treated her as an adult. She was searched as an adult," Child Q's mother said in a statement. "My daughter is a changed person. We try to reassure her but looking into the future, we can't say she will ever recover."
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001