HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Teachers Demand Urgent Drug Talks
Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2004
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2004 BBC
Contact:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/558
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/testing.htm (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/youth.htm (Youth)

TEACHERS DEMAND URGENT DRUG TALKS

Teachers say there must be urgent talks about implementing random drug
tests in England's schools - if the government is really serious about
the proposal.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a newspaper interview that head
teachers should be allowed to impose drug tests.

But the leader of the NASUWT teachers' union says questions about its
legality still have to be answered.

"The principle and practice require careful consideration," said
general secretary, Eamonn O'Kane.

"If it is confirmed that this is a serious proposal, I will be calling
for urgent talks with the government to discuss these issues," said Mr
O'Kane.

Legal challenge

"Crucial questions about the legal framework in which the scheme would
operate, the practicalities of the proposal and, most importantly,
whether it is even an appropriate strategy for combating drug abuse,
have still to be answered."

The prospect of legal challenges over drug testing has also been
raised by Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children's Legal Centre at
the University of Essex, which examines policy and law affecting children.

Insisting that pupils take drug tests could be in breach of the rights
to privacy in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Ms
Hamilton told BBC News Online.

"We're very much against random drug testing," she said, both on the
grounds of principle and the expense and complexity of how it would be
put into practice.

And she says that it is not clear what is the intended outcome of such
a policy.

If large numbers of teenagers are using drugs, she asks what would be
the consequence of the testing. Would it mean that large numbers of
pupils would be excluded from school?

Out of school

And she asks whether it be within the remit of a school to take action
against a pupil's out-of-school behaviour, when drug taking could have
taken place away from the school and outside of school hours.

Questions of consent would be disputed - and there would have to be a
rigorous process of verification for samples if there were serious
consequences for a positive finding.

Ms Hamilton also raises the question of how these tests would be
applied, asking whether they would be genuinely "random" or whether
they would be aimed at particular pupils.

'Would not work'

And the former chief constable of Gwent Police, Francis Wilkinson, who
is patron of the drugs charity Transform, also had considerable doubts.

He said the scheme would effectively be a test for cannabis, because
more harmful drugs are flushed out of users' systems much more quickly.

Mr Wilkinson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is a non-starter.
You can't do it without consent, and a child can't give informed
consent, so you would get consent from parents.

"Some won't agree and, of course, even if they do, a child can
certainly refuse.

"Do you say it is a condition of entry to a school that consent is
given by parents? The state has the responsibility of educating
everyone, so how do you deal with the fact that not all parents and
certainly not all children are going to consent?"

He added: "It is difficult to see how this could possibly
work."

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Do you back drug tests in schools?

Your comments:

I find this proposition ridiculous and impractical, and yet another
reason to regret voting Labour in the last general election. Instead
of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a drug
testing/enforcement program, why not put that money back into the
school budgets? What these kids need is smaller classes, better
equipment and more teachers to inspire them to greatness. M Dillon,
Surrey

I have seen many ridiculous suggestions from politicians who really
have no idea about the situation and suggest voter popular and
un-thought out suggestions, here is another no brainer. Quite rightly
we should be concerned about young people and drug use but what actual
purpose will positive drug tests for young people serve. They will
inevitably alienate, ostracise, and make those young people
scapegoats. Lou, Manchester

What I'd like to know is what is involved? How do they test? What if a
pupil refused? What if they were wrong and it tested negative? What
effect would this have on the child and its trust for the teachers?
Does Mr Blair not realise that if he wants to alienate children even
more that they are already that this is exactly the way to go about
it? Becky Griggs, Belfast, N Ireland

I think that much rests on the outcome of the drugs testing. It should
not be used as a way of criminalising the nation's children. If a
child tests positive and is excluded from education or criminally
prosecuted, they are being pushed along the path to a lifestyle which
may well include more extensive drug usage and lead to criminal
behaviour to support that usage. These children are victims and should
be supported and educated while the main focus is placed on suppliers
and importers of drugs who are the real criminals. Deborah,
Scarborough, UK

I think that many pupils would unfairly be sent for drugs testing, and
could be used to undermine students by even accusing them of drug use!
Certain sections in society would be targeted and could cause more
discrimination. It could also increase the mystery and curiosity. I am
a drug user, and frequently do drugs at school. I wish I hadn't got
into it, and believe creating more of a restriction on it creates more
curiosity and would make more people try them! This is the wrong
attitude to drugs; we should inform the youth rather than force them
to conform! Paul, Liverpool

Excellent idea. There have been a few incidents when I was certain
some pupils were on drugs or drunk at school. This is an issue that
needs to be tackled. A teacher, Leeds

As a child who was exposed to drugs at school in the UK in my early
teens I can honestly say this is a great idea. The deterrent is needed
as the situation with drugs in schools in England is spiralling out of
control, and certainly the schools should feel no shame in reporting
whatever number of students they find taking drugs. I will guarantee
that the students will thank them in later life. Thomas, Brooklyn,
USA

Should a child test positive, what would be next? Will the police be
informed? Who will run the rehab programs? What about testing the
teachers? Simon Keith, Kloten, Switzerland.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin