Pubdate: Sun, 17 Sep 2006
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Authors: Jason Allardyce and Marc Horne


SNIFFER dogs are to be sent into schools across  Scotland to tackle 
spiralling drug abuse among pupils.

Dealers and users have already been caught in a series  of 
unannounced raids at schools in Dumfries and  Galloway, the Borders 
and Highlands.

Now, the police dogs will be used to carry out random  checks at 
schools across Scotland amid mounting  evidence that cannabis is 
replacing tobacco as the drug  of choice behind the bike sheds.

According to a recent survey, a third of 15-year-olds  have used 
cannabis and almost one in eight has tried  drugs such as cocaine, 
speed and ecstasy. Among  13-year-olds, more than one in 10 claims to 
have used  drugs. Last year there were about 250 drug-related 
incidents involving pupils at primary and secondary  schools.

The police dogs are set to carry out random searches at  Douglas 
Ewart high school in Newton Stewart, Dumfries  and Galloway. Other 
secondary schools in the area have  been subjected to similar 
searches in the past. They  included Stranraer academy, which was 
searched in February after eight pupils, aged between 14 and 
17,  were suspended for smoking cannabis during a lunch  break.

Jean Godden, the headteacher at Nairn academy, has also  warned 
parents and pupils that sniffer dogs will be  visiting classrooms in 
the near future.

"We are sending out a clear message that drugs have no  place in any 
school," she said. "If no drugs are found,  parents and staff will be 
reassured that pupils are not  being exposed to that risk. However, 
if someone is  found in possession of a banned substance, parents 
will be equally reassured that the situation has been  exposed and dealt with."

Kingussie high school in the Highlands called in the  police after 
parents raised concerns that pupils were  dealing drugs.

"We try to educate youngsters as best we can about the  dangers of 
drugs, but I thought it was time to try  something more radical," 
said Eddie Broadley, the  school's headteacher.

Northern Constabulary dog handlers brought two  specially trained 
springer spaniels into classrooms and  one pupil was expelled after 
being found in possession  of cannabis.

During the raid teachers were searched as well as  pupils. Another 
operation is planned in the near  future.

Scottish Borders council also intends to work with the  police to 
bring in sniffer dogs in schools as well as  local youth centres and 
other areas used by young  people.

Tom Wood, Scotland's drugs czar, said he supported the  use of 
sniffer dogs where local police, headteachers  and council officials 
believed drugs in schools were a  problem.

Meanwhile, one of Scotland's leading addiction experts  has predicted 
parents will be forced to test their  children for drugs after the 
Scottish executive ruled  out the practice in schools.

Professor Neil McKeganey, of Glasgow University's  Centre for Drug 
Misuse Research, said the refusal by  ministers to sanction random 
drug-testing of pupils  meant an increasing number of parents will be 
forced to  take the initiative.

Home-testing kits for cannabis, cocaine and heroin are  widely 
available on the internet and cost about #10.  The most popular, 
which involves taking a mouth swab,  can provide a 98.5% accurate 
result within five  minutes. Another involves taking a urine sample 
that is sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Last week McKeganey, a Scottish executive adviser,  urged ministers 
to sanction spot checks in schools to  tackle a growing "culture of 
acceptance" of drug-taking  among young people.

"We should not simply stand by and watch the lives of  young people 
being destroyed by their involvement in  drug culture," he said.
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