The Globe and Mail , December 11, 1998

Strip-search teachers to be suspended and transferred--Board reprimands principal and apologizes to students, parents and the community
By Gay Abbate

Toronto -- The vice-principal and teacher who conducted the strip-search of 20 students at the Kingsville District High School have been suspended without pay for 10 teaching days.

In addition, vice-principal John MacDonald is being demoted to a teaching position. Both he and teacher Dan Bondy will also be assigned to another school.

At a special meeting last night, the Greater Essex County District School Board also voted to send a letter of reprimand to school principal Jerry Schen for "his failure to take appropriate charge of the situation once he became aware that there was a serious problem."

Board chairman George Kennedy said the search of the 14- and 15-year-old Grade 9 students was "completely inappropriate." In a news release issued after the meeting, Mr. Kennedy said, "We sincerely regret the actions of the vice-principal and teacher and offer our sincere apology to these students, their parents and to the community of Kingsville." The incident began last Friday, when a student reported the theft of $90 after he returned to the change room from the gym.

Mr. Bondy told the boys he would leave the room so the person responsible could leave the money in the middle of the room, no questions asked.

When that failed, he and Mr. MacDonald searched the boys' gym bags and, when they found nothing, they took each boy in turn to an adjoining office and told him to remove his pants. The two men searched the pants pockets and found a total of about $80.

Some, but not all of the boys were told to remove their underwear and bend over. A few refused and walked away.

The board could have fired both men, but Mr. Kennedy said, "We have carefully weighed the seriousness of this matter and, taking into account the long, exemplary employment record of these staff members, we believe these actions are appropriate."

Earlier this week, the board released interim guidelines for student searches, which state that it may be reasonable for a principal or vice-principal to search a student's locker, turn out his pockets and have his shoes and socks removed if there are reasonable grounds to suspect he may be carrying a weapon, illegal drugs or other property.

A permanent policy will be developed by a committee of trustees, senior administrators, principals and student-council representatives, and will be in place by the end of January, Mr. Kennedy said.

Police in the Southwestern Ontario town of Kingsville, population 6,000, are still investigating the incident.

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