An inter-level private school in Dak Lak Province, located in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, carries out full-body searches on each of its students before they are allowed to enter its classrooms, causing concern and consternation amongst parents who fear for their child’s privacy.
Though the headmaster believes “this is our way to protect students,” local authorities, including Pham Dang Khoa, director of the Dak Lak Department of Education and Training, plan to carry out a full inspection of the situation.
A search a day keeps the danger away
At Dong Du Private School, students start their mornings with a full search of their bags and bodies at a row of desks just behind the school’s main gate.
The searches are carried out by a team of security guards and supervisors.
|School personnel rummage through students’ bags before letting them head to class at Dong Du Private School in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam. Photo: The The / Tuoi Tre|
The search process is relatively simple: students raise both arms to shoulder level while staff scan them and pat them down.
According to Y.Nh., a Dong Du student, the search is meant to prevent students from bringing banned stuff, such as knives, scissors, and cigarettes, into the classroom.
Though while Y.Nh. seems okay with the safety procedure, her peers do not share the sentiment.
“It irks me to see each compartment in my backpacks being searched,” said G.B., another Dong Du student.
Many parents also oppose the search, regarding it as “an act of offense and invasion of privacy.”
H.T.V., a Dong Du parent, shared fears that the searches could have lasting psychological effects on some of the students, making them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about what they do or do not have in their bags.
“Misdemeanors within an academic environment such as fighting and smoking are common, so education is needed to help students understand the difference between right and wrong, but why would someone need to search students personally to preempt their wrongdoings is beyond me,” said V.
Following the norm
Le Ngoc Son, headmaster of Dong Du School, claimed that bag and body searches are the norm in education.
|A school staff member uses a metal detector to search a student at Dong Du Private School in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam. Photo: The The / Tuoi Tre|
“It’s the school’s way of keeping itself and students safe,” he said, adding that there is no law that prohibits the practice.
“Our students all come from different families with different lifestyles, so the school has had to create its own set of rules."
According to Son, with schoolyard fights on the rise throughout Vietnam, especially in Dak Lak, there is no way Dong Du would be able to function without daily student body and bag searches.
Though Son put his full support behind the policy, he also noted that it is possible for parents to opt their child out.
“Parents who oppose the policy can sign a commitment that their children won’t violate school policy. After that, their child can be exempt from searches,” Son affirmed.
However, according to Ta Quang Tong, head of the Dak Lak Bar Association, only authorities, such as police officers, are allowed to carry out searches when they believe an individual is committing a crime.
“The school is making excuses for violating personal and property rights. Having to rummage through students’ belongings and search their bodies instead of teaching and training is an educational failure,” Tong said.