The Canadian Press, December 8, 1998

Harris condemns strip-search of teens
By Wendy McCann

TORONTO (CP) -- Ontario's best-known parent recoiled in horror on Tuesday at reports that 20 teenaged boys were stripped and asked to bend over as school officials searched for stolen money.

"I can tell you as a parent, I find it repulsive," said Premier Mike Harris, whose boys are seven and 13.

"I personally think back to teenage years and Grade Nine and the challenges of puberty and of a very sensitive age and I can't imagine that there is a teacher or vice-principal anywhere in Ontario that would have been party to anything like this and I find it abhorrent."

At Kingsville District High, the school near Windsor, Ont., where the shocking strip-search took place on Friday, officials were doing some recoiling of their own -- from unwarranted negative publicity.

Administrators refused to give students "late slips" which would allow them to miss the start of class if they agreed to be interviewed by reporters hovering off school grounds.

The two men who reportedly initiated the search -- Dan Bondy, a phys-ed teacher, and vice-principal John MacDonald -- won't speak publicly about what went on, although they are co-operating with police investigators.

Older students who say they feel pity for the younger boys tried to organize their second protest in two days on Tuesday, pulling the fire alarm and running through school halls in an effort to incite a walkout.

"Everybody feels bad for them because they were subjected to something like that," Tyson Gyurkovics, 18, said in a telephone interview from Windsor.

"I'm not even that educated but I know what they did was wrong."

Students say the incident occurred after a student reported $90 missing.

The boys were taken one at a time into an office, ordered to remove their pants and then told to bend over as the two men searched for the money, the students say.

One of the boys, 14-year-old Jay Hardy, says he felt "violated, like I had no civil rights," during the search.

Others have used words such as "disgusting," "uncomfortable," "embarrassed and sick" to describe how the incident made them feel.

Parents are pushing the local school board to get involved.

"I'm outraged," said Tyson's mother Karan Gyurkovics.

"It should never, ever have happened. To make a 14- or 15-year-old boy bend over, that's not right."

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada 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.

Education Minister Dave Johnson said Tuesday his understanding is that searches are supposed to be limited to serious matters that involve weapons and drugs, not money.

He added that strip searches are never acceptable.

The Education Ministry intends to circulate the proper guidelines to all Ontario schools, Johnson said.

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