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Schools must get parents' consent for drugs search



Monday 28th April 2003

The Government has stated schools planning to use sniffer dogs to stamp out drug use by their pupils should get the go-ahead from parents first.

Parents' representatives said they would support the controversial tactic because they were terrified of their children getting involved with drugs.

An increasing number of schools have resorted to bringing in the specially-trained animals in recent years to prevent children taking or dealing substances such as cannabis on the premises.

Pupils whose parents refused consent to sniffer dog searches or urine tests should be removed beforehand, said updated guidance from the Department for Education and Skills.

It made clear that such measures were to be used in "extreme circumstances".

The guidance stressed that schools must carefully consider whether pupils might be "damaged" by being labelled in the wake of a search and if those that needed it would get the appropriate help as a result.

Schools should also work out if such measures tallied with their responsibility to create a "supportive environment".

Last summer, Kent Police conducted sniffer dog searches in 10 secondary schools where pupils were told they were being used to stage mock raids on a night club as part of a drugs education lesson.

The dogs nosed out 11 who admitted to using cannabis and 62 who had come into contact with the drug and police said the scheme would be extended across the county following the successful experiment.

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations said she thought 99% of parents would agree to sniffer dog searches.

"Parents are terrified of their children being involved with drugs and will do anything they can to help solve the problem."

Warnings that schools may use dogs or urine tests ought to be included in their published drugs policies and could be written into home-school agreements, she went on.

"It is important that it is done very carefully and with sensitivity," she added.


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