'That is not acceptable': Montreal mom furious son told to drop his pants at school during search for vaping products
MONTREAL -- A Montreal mother is outraged that her teenaged had to lower his pants at his school last week during a search for vaping products -- a search that one constitutional rights lawyer said went too far.
Andrew Forgione, a Grade 9 student at LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School, called it a traumatizing experience when he and three other students were implicated in the search, during which he had to lower his pants but not his underwear. All four students are between the ages of 13 and 16.
"I dropped them. I had to grab the side of my boxers, move them around, my waistband to see if anything fell out and I had to turn around and do the same thing in the back," Forgione, 15, told CTV News.
His mother, Laura McCarthy, said when he told her what happened, she was furious.
"When you’re asking a 15-year-old boy to drop his pants, that is not acceptable," she said.
"They could have called the police, they could have called a parent, we were not notified."
BOARD SAID SEARCH WAS 'REGRETTABLE'
School officials did find a vaping pen on Forgione. According to the school board's policy, students are banned from bringing any illicit substances and items onto the premises, including vaping paraphernalia.
However, the school board said an investigation is underway to look into what happened, but says there was "no malicious intent" in the search.
"The Lester B Pearson school board is the first to say at our level this is regrettable. We do not accept this as a means or a way to investigate something like vaping in the washrooms," said Judy Kelley, a chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
"Our assistant director general is involved, our regional director is involved. They’re at the school, they’re asking questions. They’re trying to get to the bottom of it."
Lawyer Julius Grey said it's clear to him that a search like this was unreasonable.
"If it’s just vaping stuff and if it’s not something that’s immediately dangerous I think it is going too far," he said.
"It’s one thing to look in a locker, it’s one thing to look inside a desk, it’s another thing to tell somebody to pull down his pants."
Darren Becker, communications director for the school board, told CTV News the school has a right to search students if there are "reasonable grounds."
Becker also stressed that the term "strip search" does not apply to Friday's incident, as students weren't asked to remove all of their clothing, just to lower their pants.
Forgione said he was suspended after the vaping pen was found on him and that going back to school since the incident has been an awkward experience.
"They said that they are investigating but nothing has happened yet and something has to be done," he said.
In the meantime, his mother is also concerned about how the experience might affect her son at his school.
"No adult has the right to tell a child to drop his pants. No one," she said.
"I’m not proud of the fact that he had a vaporizing pen on him. But I think that they should have went about it in the right way. They should have notified the parents, someone should have been there with him."
With files from CTV News' Matt Grillo