The case was taken to the Youth Court of Nova Scotia. The
judge found that the vice-principal was acting as an agent of
the police and the search violated the student's rights under
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charges against
the student were dismissed.
The decision was then taken to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal
where a new trial was ordered. The teen then appealed to the
Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that principals and teachers
are not subject to the same rules as police when conducting searches.
This means that teachers everywhere can now search students
without reasonable or probable grounds. Instead, a search may
be undertaken if there is reasonable grounds to believe that
a school rule is being broken and the evidence of a violation
can be found. Teachers will not need to obtain a warrant. The
teachers will also be the ones who will determine if reasonable
grounds for the search are there. The search must be carried
out in a reasonable matter and the circumstances considered should
include age and gender of the student.
Some schools have already taken advantage of the new rule. At
the last North Island Secondary School dance, every bag, purse,
backpack and jacket that went into the dance was checked. An
even more unbelievable incident happened in Kingsville, Ontario
when 20 boys in gym class were strip searched by their physical
education teacher and a first year vice-principal after $90 was
The boys were taken one at a time into the to the Physical
Education office and ordered to take off their pants so the men
could check the pockets. They were then told to take off their
underwear and bend over to make sure they weren't hiding any
money. Not only is this outrageous, but is a violation of the
students' civil rights. Not only did the two educators strip
away the students' clothes, but their dignity and respect as
well. This new decision seems to leave the door wide open for
sexual harassment allegations.
Our school superintendent has stated that nothing like that
would ever happen in Port Hardy, and that we already have a policy
which does not need to be altered. Besides he says students have
to realize that lockers are not property of the students, but
property of the school district.
Certainly, at our recent dance, things were as normal as ever
-- backpacks and jackets were placed in the physics lab as they
always are and Students' Council advisor, Norm Prince, has stated
that he doesn't think there is any reason to start checking bags
at dances unless it is absolutely necessary.
Still, this Supreme Court decision seems to have more cons
and disadvantages than pros and advantages.