Searching Pupils Safely

In a week when a colleague has been tragically lost following a fatal stabbing in a school, teachers and school leaders will no doubt be asking questions about their own safety measures and wondering about such topics as the power to search students.

I should start by saying that my thoughts are with the family of Ann Maguire.  It is clear from the reporting that she was an inspirational teacher and this only adds to the immense sense of loss that this violent act has brought about.

Focusing now on schools and what we might do to improve our own safety I think today’s announcement by Brian Lightman is a sensible starting point.  Brain called for calm and warned against turning schools into fortresses and I am inclined to agree.  This sort of incident is thankfully a rarity in our schools.  With any risk avoidance strategy the steps put into place to safeguard people from the risk should be proportionate to the likelihood of the risk actually occurring. It is also clear from evidence in America that simply introducing numerous security measures will not eradicate the chance of a violent incident.

For those of you who are now considering whether or not you should search pupils you will find the guidance at the DFE website here useful in determining your school’s specific policy.

However your school decides to respond there will almost certainly be occasions when staff need to search a pupil whether it is to determine if a pupil has stolen property on them, a weapon, banned substances or any other number of items.  When that point is reached no doubt you will come to the same question I arrived at when writing my school’s policy on searching students.  That being, how does one correctly carry out a search on a person.  While I am no security expert I did put together the knowledge I had from working briefly in the armed forces and working as a doorman to pay my way through University.  If you are tasked with searching a pupil I would consider this to be sensible guidance on how to do so.

How to carry out a non-contact search with the metal detecting wand.

  1. Consider if a search is needed.  Remember you may have witnesses that could assist you or CCTV footage that may render a search as unnecessary.
  2. A witness is not needed but it is good practice to have one.  You do not need to worry about genders for this type of search.
  3. Explain that you want to carry out a search, explain why and get permission.
  4. Consider the location you are doing the search.  A crowd of students gawping and pointing is not an ideal place to do a search.
  5. Ask them to give you anything sharp or items that they shouldn’t have. SAFETY – they may have sharps so it is better to get them to offer them up at the start.
  6. Ask the person to put their arms out to the side.
  7. Arm the metal detector wand and check it works against a metal item on your own body.
  8. Start at the neck and run the wand along the arm on the top and then back along the underside.
  9. Repeat for the other arm.
  10. Check the hands are open and not hiding anything.
  11. Run the wand from the waist up to the armpits on both sides.
  12. Run the wand up the front of the body in a sweeping motion.  You may need to do this more than twice for bigger people.
  13. Ask them to turn and repeat for the back.
  14. Then check front and rear pockets.  Don’t put your hands in the pockets (DANGER – SHARPS).  If you find an item ask the person to empty the pockets.
  15. Check the legs sweeping from the hip to the floor and back up the inside leg.  Repeat for both legs.  Run the wand up the front and down the back of the leg.  Repeat for the second leg.
  16. If you have removed items from the person’s pockets or a coat, get the person to check the items for you so you are not accused of theft or inappropriate behaviour.
  17. You do not need to contact the body with the wand.  If you are warned of an item by the wand get the person to remove the item or identify if it is a zip or a belt buckle.

 How to carry out a contact search with permission.

  1. Consider if a search is needed.  Remember you may have witnesses that could assist you or CCTV footage that may render a search as unnecessary.
  2. Get a witness of the same gender as the person being searched.  You should also be the same gender as the person being searched.
  3. Explain that you want to carry out a search, explain why and get permission.
  4. Consider the location you are doing the search.  A crowd of students gawping and pointing is not an ideal place to do a search.
  5. Ask them to give you anything sharp or items that they shouldn’t have. SAFETY – they may have sharps so it is better to get them to offer them up at the start.
  6. Ask them to remove any external garments like coats or hats. (Don’t ask the person to remove religious head wear.
  7. Consider using the metal wand detector to assist you in the search.  Remember the wand only finds metal items, not drugs, drink etc….
  8. Ask the person to put their arms out to the side.
  9. Place your hands round the arm at the shoulder and slide them down the arm to the wrist.  Check the hands are open and not hiding anything.
  10. Feel the collars.
  11. Use the back of the hands to feel down the chest and sides.  The back of the hands is less suggestive and less personal.
  12. Ask them to turn and feel the back of the body.  Remember the back of the hands is less suggestive.
  13. Then check front and rear pockets, don’t put your hands in the pockets (DANGER – SHARPS).  If you feel an item in the pocket get the person to empty their pockets
  14. Check the legs as well like you did the arms.  Start from the thigh and slide down to the ankle.
  15. You might want to check shoes as well.  Get them to remove the shoes to check them.
  16. If you have removed items from the pockets or a coat, get the person to check the items for you so you are not accused of theft or inappropriate behaviour.
  17. Ask the person to run their fingers round their waistline/belt.

 How to carry out a contact search without permission.

The procedure is as above but you must make sure that a witness is present and that staff involved with the restraint are suitably trained, confident enough to tackle the individual and you should always consider all other alternatives to a forced search.

 

 

 

 

 

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