HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 'It Is Too Nanny-State To Stomach'
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Feb 2004
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


The Proposal To Start Random Testing Is Misguided, Say Observers

Times Editorial, February 23

"The government's decision to let heads introduce random drug-testing
for children aged 14 and over will be a welcome addition to schools'
limited armoury [against drug use]. Not all will wish to make use of
what are effectively police powers to take urine samples from pupils
and to use dogs to sniff out drugs. But it must be right in principle
to let headteachers decide both whether to test and what to do with
the results. Random testing should deter some pupils, and stiffen the
resolve of others to resist peer pressure ...

"It would, of course, be quite wrong for testing to create a false
sense of security. While it can usefully detect a fraction of users,
it will inevitably miss some of those who are in real trouble. Whereas
marijuana can take weeks to disappear from the body, for example,
ecstasy and alcohol disappear within hours. Parents and teachers need
to pay careful attention to other signs such as truancy, erratic
behaviour and falling grades. The fact is that youngsters who are most
at risk of substance abuse are more likely to be playing truant from

Daily Mail Editorial, February 23

"Isn't this the same Tony Blair who has presided over the
ill-considered reclassification of cannabis, a botch that persuaded
millions of young people the drug is in effect decriminalised and
smoking the odd joint isn't so bad after all? Wasn't it his
administration that made the expulsion of pupils - even those found
dealing in drugs - much more difficult? ...

"Does he seriously expect hard-pressed teachers to oversee a
difficult, time-consuming testing regime, when they are already snowed
under by Whitehall red tape? How many heads will invite disruption and
bad publicity by imposing tests? What happens when pupils refuse to
take them, as some certainly will? ... The tragedy is none of this
seriously addresses a drugs culture blighting countless young lives."

Journal Editorial, Newcastle, February 23

"There is a big difference between teenagers coming into contact with
drugs - even of trying drugs once - and going on to become a user ...
Headteachers have developed their own strategies which, while never
likely to remove the menace of drugs altogether, do serve to minimise
the threat to the young people in their care ...

"It is the government which has done most to undermine this work by
'downgrading' the legal status of cannabis - thus encouraging the
liberal myth that it is a harmless high - at a time when it has fallen
far enough in price to be within the compass of many children's pocket
money. Random tests are a blunt instrument likely to make it harder
for teachers to detect and deal with drug abuse. Criminalisation will
deter young people from 'telling' on their friends and move any
emerging drug culture away from schools, where teachers would have the
most chance of spotting it and dealing with it."

Daily Star Editorial, February 23

"Stopping youngsters smoking joints behind the bike sheds is one
thing. But having teachers pounding corridors and ordering on-the-spot
urine samples is too nanny-state to stomach.

"No one wants drugs in schools. But surely we should be teaching kids
about the dangers of drugs - not forcing them into army-style tests in
lessons. This smacks of a classic quick fix to grab a good soundbite,
like so many of Labour's grand ideas."

Daily Mirror Editorial, February 23

"Headteachers already have the power to perform these tests, yet few,
if any, do. That suggests they don't consider them an effective way of
dealing with drug-taking ... The [new] rules, so far revealed, are too
muddled. A pupil found to have taken drugs will not be excluded from
school but will be helped to cope with his problem. Will there be a
difference in treatment between the young person found to have smoked
a joint and the one who has used heroin? ...

"The key to dealing with drug use by young people lies in educating
all of them, not just those who are found to be users. And it should
include the dangers of those other drugs which do so much damage -
alcohol and tobacco. The war on drugs needs clear thinking. Testing
for them in schools is only a small part of understanding how to deal
with them."

Herald Editorial, Scotland, February 23

"Rushing headlong into a regime of random pupil-testing without proper
consideration and consultation would not only be unpopular; it would
also fly in the face of the reality of drug education and reporting in
many schools. At their best, school drug policies are sufficiently
flexible and sensitive to deal with the needs and problems of
individual children. The child who is curious about drugs must be
treated differently from the child who has gone further. In the worst
cases, schools call in the police to deal with incidents that are
potentially criminal.

"In addition, the scale of the problem is not known. Why jeopardise
the good work being done to keep children onside on drugs, and help
them if they stray? ... School is the one area outside the home where
children should feel secure, not put under unnecessary stress by a
policy that, on current evidence, has no justification."
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