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Schools send out tough anti-drugs message 11 September 2008

SECONDARY schools are joining forces to issue a tough start-of-term message that drug use will not be tolerated.

Specially trained police drug detection dogs and handlers already visit the five secondary schools at the invitation of headteachers and presentations are given to students about how the dogs operate. Any concerns raised by students have been addressed and the majority of students welcome the visits.

The Isle of Man Constabulary’s work with schools will, from this term, be supplemented by additional, unannounced visits whereby drug detection dogs will be walked through communal areas and classrooms. Anti-drugs

The emphasis is on ensuring that students feel safe and understand the implications of possessing drugs, alcohol and tobacco in the school setting. This initiative is not targeted at individual students but is held to emphasise the drug-prevention and harm-reduction measures in place, explained a spokesman for the headteachers.

If drugs were found, a school would implement the Department of Education policy. The Department’s Drug and Alcohol Liaison Officer, Orla O’Donoghue, would be informed and students would be offered education awareness sessions. Parents and carers are included in this process. A referral may be made to drug and alcohol support agencies.

Any illegal substances discovered would be handed to the police, where they would be analysed. Other substances such as alcohol and tobacco products would usually be destroyed, the spokesman added.

The initiative is designed to support, not criminalise, students and counselling and or referral to other support agencies would be put into place.

The spokesman for the headteachers said:

‘We are not expecting to find drugs. Our schools work on a policy of zero tolerance to drug use and we hope that this will be a visible way of reinforcing that message. We see this as agencies working together to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of drug use. ’

Education Minister Anne Craine MHK said:

‘I am very pleased that our five secondary schools are working together to ensure that everyone will be aware of the strong message that drugs will not be tolerated in our school communities.’

Inspector Kevin Willson, head of the Isle of Man Constabulary’s Drug Trafficking Unit, said:

‘The Isle of Man Constabulary will continue to work in partnership with local schools to ensure the threat posed by drugs is reduced as far as possible, allowing our young people the freedom to enjoy their time at school, free from harm.’

Inspector Willson added:

‘It is pleasing to see the tough stance taken by schools and their proactive efforts to work with the police in areas such as drug education and in delivering a strong message to those seeking to exploit young people that they are not welcome and that every effort will be made to prevent their influence in our schools.’

If parents would like to know more about drugs and how to discuss them with their children, the Department of Education, with the support of the Isle of Man Constabulary and Care for the Family, runs free awareness sessions each term. For more information or to book a place, call 693837.

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