The Associated Press, December 10, 1998

Canadian gym teacher, vice principal suspended over strip-search probe

KINGSVILLE, Ontario--A gym teacher and vice principal have been suspended while authorities investigate the strip search of 19 high school students, police said Wednesday.

The two men conducted the search last week while looking for money that a student claimed was stolen.

Val Pistor, director of education for the local school board, said John MacDonald, the vice principal who allowed the strip search, admits he made a mistake and is devastated by the incident.

Dan Bondy, the gym teacher involved in the search, is refusing to comment until he gets a lawyer.

Both have been suspended with pay pending the results of investigations by police and the school board.

Pistor said that based on investigations so far, "disciplinary action is warranted as a result of what we found." The board said further action against the two may come as soon as Thursday.

The controversy was sparked Friday when 19 ninth-graders, aged about 14, were taken one at a time into an office, ordered to remove their pants, then told to bend over as Bondy and MacDonald searched for missing money. The money was never found.

Ontario Premier Mike Harris, the father of sons aged 7 and 13, condemned the acts as repulsive and abhorrent.

The board has issued strict new guidelines for student searches. From now on, teachers will only be able to ask students to turn their pockets inside out or take off their shoes and socks.

Police must be called if a teacher wants a more intensive search to be performed.

Education Minister Dave Johnson said searches are supposed to be limited to serious matters that involve weapons and drugs, not money. Strip searches are never warranted, he said.

Recently, Canada's Supreme Court ruled teachers and principals have the right to search students on school premises if they believe school rules are being broken.

But the court set guidelines on when searches are reasonable and how they should be conducted.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents