The Associated Press, December 8, 1998

Furor erupts in Ontario over strip search of 20 ninth-grade boys
By David Crary

TORONTO (AP) -- A high school vice principal and gym teacher were ordered to stay away from students after they conducted a mass strip search of ninth-grade boys in a futile quest for stolen money.

The search, carried out last week at Kingsville District High School in southwestern Ontario, prompted a walkout by about 200 students Monday. On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Mike Harris joined the widespread condemnation of the search, calling it repulsive.

On Friday, gym teacher Dan Bondy summoned vice principal John MacDonald to help him search students after none of the 20 boys in a gym class would admit to having stolen $90 from a fellow student.

The two staff members ordered the boys to come one by one into an office, where they were subjected to a strip search. The stolen money was not found.

After complaints from parents and students, education officials opened an inquiry and ordered MacDonald and Bondy to stay away from students for the time being. Neither man could be reached for comment Tuesday. They were not at school, and their telephones went unanswered.

"In my 33 years in education I've never heard anything like this," said Val Pistor, director of education for the regional school board. He called the search a "violation of the rights, dignity and respect of children."

Harris, a conservative who favors back-to-basics reforms in the public school system, had no sympathy for the two staff members.

"I personally think back to teen-age years and Grade 9 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," he said. "I find it abhorrent."

Canada's Supreme Court has 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.

Ontario's education minister, Dave Johnson, said searches are supposed to be limited those for weapons and drugs, not money. He said strip searches at schools are never acceptable.

Kingsville is about 25 miles southeast of Windsor, Ontario.

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