Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2004
Source: Sun, The (UK)
Copyright: News Group Newspapers Ltd, 2004	
Author: George Pascoe-Watson, Deputy Political Editor
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


New Plans ... To Banish Drugs From Schools

RADICAL plans for random drug-testing in schools triggered a furious 
backlash from teachers last night.

Premier Tony Blair has urged heads to put pupils through urine tests and to 
allow sniffer dogs to patrol corridors.

But teachers' leaders believe the controversial move is doomed to fail. 
They said staff should not be saddled with the task of rooting out drug 
takers. And they fear it could lead to teachers being sued by parents over 
human rights abuses.

Meanwhile experts warned testing could backfire -- by driving drug use 
among youngsters underground.

Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, 
said: "Very occasionally, heads may ask the police to carry out a random 
search. But I am concerned at the implication that the drugs problem is 
rooted in schools and that schools should solve it.

"Yet another burden is being placed on schools. They have a contribution to 
make to solving the drugs problem but policies must look much more widely."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "This would be a very 
big step for any head teacher to take.

"It is effectively giving them police powers. I think a head would want to 
think very, very carefully before exercising them.

But Mr O'Kane added: "No school can tolerate drugs and a head faced with 
such a situation may look at the proposed new powers as a last resort."

Martin Barnes, chief executive of drugs information charity DrugScope, said 
the plans would do nothing to reduce drug abuse.

He warned: "These measures risk driving drug use further underground, an 
increase in truancies and a breakdown in trust between pupils and schools."

Guidelines from the Education Department are to go out to all schools and 
town halls next month, giving heads the power to order drug testing.

Mr Blair has acted after a four-month study by the Education Department.

The PM told our sister paper the News of the World yesterday: "If heads 
believe they have a problem, they should be able to do random drug testing. 
Some may worry if they go down this path they are declaring there is a 
problem with their school.

"But the local community is probably well aware there is a problem. You are 
not telling anyone anything they don't know."

Testing will NOT be mandatory and the decision to use the powers will be up 
to the head.

Heads will also be encouraged to allow private firms to sweep classrooms, 
corridors and toilet blocks with sniffer dogs.

Pupils caught with drugs in their system would not automatically be 
expelled or handed over to police. Most would be offered treatment and 
Current laws allow heads to call in the police if they suspect a pupil is 
involved in drugs.

A Government study of 300 offenders of school age found one in five had 
dealt in drugs.

Almost nine out of ten had used cannabis.

A fifth had tried crack cocaine and one in ten heroin.

And a survey of 10,000 pupils in 321 schools throughout England showed a 
dramatic doubling of drug use among youngsters aged 11 to 15 in just four 

In 2002 26 per cent said they had used drugs. In 1998 the figure was just 
13 per cent.

Figures from America show testing there has dramatically slashed drug abuse 
by pupils.

President Bush claimed drug users had been cut by 400,000 in a pilot scheme 
across 1,000 schools.



We'll stop and search

SOME schools are already taking tough action against drugs.

Staff at St Thomas Aquinas High School in Chorlton, Manchester, can stop 
and search pupils they suspect of carrying drugs.

Parents of suspected pupils will be contacted.

If they refuse to allow a search in their absence, the child will be 
detained until they, or in serious cases the police, arrive.

Head John O'Callaghan said: "The majority of parents will be happy to 
co-operate. They don't want their youngsters involved in this stuff."


Dogs check school bus

POLICE sniffer dogs are to be used on school buses in Yorkshire in random 
checks on drug abuse.

Chief Insp Malcolm Chiddey said: "This is not meant to be a frightener. 
Schools do not want drugs on their premises, transport operators do not 
want drugs on their buses and parents do not want their children associated 
with others who may use drugs."

Sniffer dogs were also sent into ten schools in Kent to search for drugs 
last November.

Several boys were caught with marijuana.


For and Against


Former cop Paul Batts, 57 ... whose teenage daughter Leah died after taking 
ecstasy tablet in 1995

I'VE got absolutely no problem with drug testing in schools.

I would be quite happy for drug testers to arrive in school assembly out of 
the blue and say: "We're going to test everybody."

Civil liberties groups argue about people's rights.

But it is not their right.

Drug taking is illegal.

Also drug testing would give children the chance to say no to drugs without 
losing face.

They would say: "I'm not going to try that -- I could be expelled."

And it would weed out those children who are drug addicts.

Then they could have support and they could be helped to get off drugs.

Children go to school to better themselves.

They are at an impressionable age and having drugs around can hit their 
hopes of getting to university and a job.

When they start taking drugs, results plummet.

If drug testing was written into the school rules, children would know the 
consequences if they started using.

Cannabis stays in the system 30 days.

They wouldn't be so tempted to take it if they knew they could be caught a 
month later.

My only reservation is that at the moment there is not enough treatment 
available for children using drugs.

If you find junkies you have to help.

There has to be a follow-up.

If you just eject them from school you simply pass the problem on to 
someone else.


Jean Gemmell, 63 ... general secretary of The Professional Association of 

MY first reaction to this was to be fairly horrified.

I cannot quite see how on earth it is going to work.

There is a considerable debate about whether or not teachers ought or not 
to administer any sort of medication in schools.

Litigation is rife when teachers are deemed to have done anything intrusive 
that parents or young people are not happy with.

Teachers have enough on their plates without having to organise drug tests.

It is adding to their burden of social responsibility to the point that it 
becomes untenable.

Would the tests be for all children or just those at risk or under suspicion?

If every child was tested the logistics and costs would be extreme.

And what would happen if a child was caught? Would they be permanently 

Sports stars liable for drug testing know they can simply walk away from 
their sport if they are worried about a positive test.

But children can't simply walk away from an education.

It could also lead to absenteeism from pupils worried about the test.

Anything that keeps children away from school is a bad thing. Parental 
responsibility has to come into this issue.

My reaction to this idea was one of amazement and it makes me very anxious.

All of these things are devised for good motives.

I haven't got my head in the sand, I know drugs are a problem in schools 
and society as a a whole.

But the practicalities of this make mincemeat of those intentions.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom