School sniffer dogs and urine tests “already legal”

Some schools are already using urine tests and sniffer dogs to
detect drugs, and they are within their rights to do so, according
to the Department for Education and Skills.

New government guidance to schools on drugs, published last
week, says that sniffer dogs managed either by the police or by
private companies can be brought into schools by head teachers,
though police should normally be consulted and parents should have
given their consent, usually in writing.

“Headteachers are entitled to use such strategies and they
are best placed to make decisions on whether such approaches are

Prime Minister Tony Blair caused controversy when he said in an
interview with the News of the World newspaper published on Sunday 
that head teachers should be able to use drugs tests.

In fact the guidance confirming that they could and indeed
already were using drugs testing and dogs had been published six
days earlier.

The idea has generated protests from teachers organisations and
charities. Drugs information charity Drugscope said that drug
testing and the use of sniffer dogs was neither a  proportionate or
effective response to drug use among children. Chief executive
Martin Barnes said the announcement had been made weeks before
ring-fenced money for drugs work in schools was due to be
withdrawn, and commented, “These measures risk driving drug
use further underground, an increase in truancies and exclusions
and a breakdown in trust between pupils and schools.”

The Children’s Legal Centre at Essex university has
suggested compulsory drug tests could breach the European
Convention on Human Rights. And  former chief constable Francis
Wilkinson described the policy as a non-starter.

Wilkinson, formerly of Gwent Police and now patron of the drugs
charity Transform, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “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?”

The 128 page guidance document covers drugs education for
children at primary and secondary school as well as how schools
should deal with a drugs emergency, or a disclosure about illegal
drug use by other family member. It explains how they should
respond to students found to be using drugs, and warns that
teachers cannot legally carry out personal searches of students, or
search their property without their consent.

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