Drug sniffer dogs in schools

The Herald reports:

A Northland headmaster has written to Prime Minister John Key expressing his concerns about banning drug sniffer dogs from schools, saying it is “short-sighted nonsense” and proposed new legislation was “nuts”.

The Education Amendment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament this month, aims to abolish the use of drug sniffer dogs and drug testing in schools.

The Ministry of Education says the changes will encourage safe learning environments without invasive methods.

Whangarei Boys’ High School headmaster Al Kirk has outlined his concerns to politicians Hekia Parata, Phil Heatley, Mike Sabin, Hone Harawira and John Key.

“I can tell you that WBHS is not supportive of the two amendments relating to drug tests and drug dogs. We are strongly opposed to these suggested changes. Schools will be left to pick up the pieces,” Mr Kirk said in his letter.

“I urge common sense and ask you think long and hard before supporting such retrograde changes.” 

He said safety of students would be compromised under the new regulations in some cases.

The school regularly had a drug sniffer dog go through the school and hostels.

“Surely to goodness, schools should be drug-free,” Mr Kirk said.

I have no idea why the Government is looking to ban these.

Of course you’d rather not have any drug testing or drug sniffer dogs at schools. But if a school thinks such measures are necessary to keep their school drug free, then they should be able to make those decisions.

I thought National was about more flexibility at school level?

UDATE: I’ve been sent some details about the rationale behind the bill. Basically is it that teachers are experts in teaching, not in drug detecting and enforcement. The legal situation has been unclear, hence the requirements in the bill. Teachers themselves will not be able to search bags (unless left in a locker), demand urine tests or use drug dogs.

However teachers can search school property such as lockers and desks. And if they have reasonable grounds to believe a student has an item which can endanger others or detrimentally affect the learning environment, they can demand it is given over (unclear if they can search for it if not given).

Drug dogs can be used, but not when students are present. Schools can bring the Police in to investigate if they think a student is under the influence. Also a Board can still require a suspended student to take a drug test to return to school – so long as the requirement is “reasonable”.

Okay I now understand the rationale behind the bill. I still have to say though that overall I still share the headmaster’s concern. In most schools this law will be fine. But there will be some schools with some pretty hardened drug sellers, and they will be able to evade detection if you can’t do random searches of bags at school.

This bill has just been introduced. The best thing is that people can submit to the select committee. So schools that feel this is too restrictive should say so, as Whangarei Boys’ has.

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