Pubdate: Thu, 10 May 2007
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2007 Cape Argus.
Author: Wendy Jasson da Costa, Andisiwe Makinana and Leila Samodien
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


The national department of education has moved a step closer to 
introducing random searches for guns and drugs, and drug-testing, at 
schools with the publication of the Education Laws Amendment Bill for 
public comment this week.

The controversial bill has been on the cards since last year. 
Although welcomed by many schools and educators, it also raised 
questions about whether it was constitutional.

The bill seeks to give teachers and principals the right to search 
pupils and seize any drugs, weapons or objects that could be used to 
cause injury.

If the bill is accepted teachers will also have the right to conduct 
urine tests on pupils suspected of using "unlawful intoxicating or 
stupefying substances".

Camps Bay High School principal David de Korte said today that while 
he agreed that the bill was "quite controversial", schools could not 
accurately determine the full extent of drug problems among their 
pupils if random testing was not implemented.

He said the school had already implemented a system that encouraged 
pupils to volunteer for drug tests and confronted pupils suspected of 
using drugs. The pupils were tested only with their parents' permission.

Spine Road High school principal Riyaadh Najaar said today the school 
welcomed the bill and believed it would strengthen the hand of 
teachers and governing bodies.

"Anything that will ensure a safe school environment is welcomed," said Najaar.

"However, it should not be the responsibility of teacher and 
principals to implement the law, but the department should train 
people to do this."

Najaar said he was also concerned about how guilty parties would be sanctioned.

"We would need to send a strong message to anybody found guilty."

He was backed by Manenberg High principal, Thurston Brown, who said 
he was also looking forward to the bill becoming law.

"Up to now we have found a number of dangerous weapons like knives 
and screwdrivers but it is risky for us as teachers to start 
searching people; hopefully if this becomes a law things will improve."

Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for provincial Education MEC Cameron 
Dugmore said the department welcomed the bill as "it is going to 
assist in terms of fighting the scourge of drugs in our school".

"We will give schools all the support they need in implementing it," 
said Witbooi.

The bill specifies that the searches must be conducted by a person of 
the same gender as the pupil, in private and in the presence of a witness.

According to the bill, it was important to strengthen the existing 
measures because the Regulations for Safety Measures at Public 
Schools had not adequately dealt with the "mischief" it had attempted 
to remedy.

The amendment also contained checks and balances to prevent the new 
measures from being abused.

Besides public comment, the bill still has to be referred to the 
National Treasury and Department of Social Development and Safety and 
Security before it goes before parliament.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman