Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Drug tests in school?

26.06.2006 By Evan Harding

A Northland school which uses sniffer dogs to catch student drug users is now considering the rare move of introducing random drug testing.

A sniffer dog was taken into school after three students were caught smoking marijuana at Maungaturoto's Otamatea High School recently.

The dog found one student with marijuana, an unspecified number of others with marijuana residue and places where the drug had been hidden.

Otamatea High School is promising future random visits from sniffer dogs, and has now taken the unusual step of asking the students' parents if they want random drug testing at the school.

Haydn Hutching
Feedback from about 25 parents since the question was posed on Monday had found all in favour, principal Haydn Hutching said.

Michael Vincent-Tovine, who has a daughter at the school, was all for the move. "I just hate the stuff. School isn't the place for drugs," he said.

Both the Ministry of Education and New Zealand Schools Trustees Association praised Otamatea High School for seeking parent feedback before making a decision.

"They have obviously seen drugs as a problem and there's no better way to try and solve that problem than by bringing the community on board," said Chris Haines, president of the trustees association.

Ministry spokesman Vince Cholewa said all schools had the right to introduce random drug testing as long as it complied with the Bill of Rights.

Mr Hutching believed drug use at his school was no worse than at any other, but they wanted to deter students and make a safe environment for everyone at the school.

"If we get (stoned) kids using things like drop-saws and lathes it's a huge issue," Mr Hutching said.

Board of Trustees chairman Murray Cullen was also in support, adding he "would be happy" for his own children to be randomly drug tested.

But the board first wanted to see how parents responded.

"If they're in favour we'll seriously consider it, that's for sure. We don't want drugs in the school, and we're aware that it doesn't matter how many rules we put in place, if kids want to sneak it in they will sneak it in," he said.

Sniffer dogs and random drug testing would present a "random risk factor for the kids that carry", he said.

It would also allow other students to avoid peer pressure when offered drugs. "They can say `no, we've got random drug testing at school and I might get kicked out'," Mr Hutching said.

Otamatea High School had considered introducing sniffer dogs for a year and when police were unable to provide one they hired their own, at their own expense. It had given the school a snapshot of the drug problem on a particular day.

Mr Cullen had no evidence of drugs other than marijuana at his school, but said: "I am sure there's other stuff around."

The Otamatea High School students stood down for drug taking had since returned to school after subsequent tests revealed they were clean. They would now be monitored.
==================== ends ====================
And the outcomes are?

The molecule sniffing policy has surely been tried elsewhere. The outcomes have been found 'on evidence and logic' to be wanting. Random searches of teens body and body fluids creates a breach of trust from which there is no social dividend.

Netherlands teen 'family friendly' Drug education , despite a climate of high accessibility is about 1/4 as dysfunctional in teen health outcomes as ours, and that's at every age group. If drug use is a problem, we owe it to 'our kids' do we not, to minimise overall harms.

Visiting Professor, Rodney Skager's enlightening analysis in his book on the subject explains the failure of zero tolerance and notably, in his Christchurch talk he categorically applauded the restorative approach with special mention of its use in Maori culture.

It's about healing and unconditional reacceptance 'into society'. Very Maori.

Reality based education is about tolerance and the 'reality' that cannabis use is a prevelent community behavour.
How we set the benchmark for 'coming of age'
If prevalence is a guide, adolescent cannabis use is a normative behaviour. Despite a continuing base of science supporting the notion that the harms have been largely overstated, they continue to be overstated.
Zero tolerance while there is in reality [we have] the highest uptake in the entire OECD occuring in our teens reeks of implausability.

The younger we reach out on 'cannabis' and other drugs selling the 'prevalence and use' problem creates the illusion that 'everyone is doing it'. [No wonder they cant bloody wait.]
Youth targeted drug testing fails the human rights test.

It will truly and credibly acknowledge (yes, that's what reality based means) that drug misuse is potentially problematic but so to is the illicit set and setting. We count the harms at the worst end of the scale in body bags.

However, the reality is most teen experiential use carries some risk, but aside from the anomalous consequence of a forced intervention that denies our children the human right to informed consent, it is at a very thin end of the harms scale.
Collectively we have failed to account - there has never been a cost benefit analysis of zero tolerance. It is sustained by wishful and woolly thinking.

When you do the critical thinking, zero tolerance education in application has been found to be a systemic and chronic 'health promotion' failure.

(this is culpable child abuse by the way, where is the informed consent again? )

Random drug testing/dogs in schools is a retrograde step having far more consequences than 'good intentions' can account for.

Drug hypocrisy is at the root of many young folks attitude to and alienation from 'rule of law'. That it is young, male and Maori who are 'targets' in this war of ideals according to ministry statistics, that this profile is institutionalised 'common knowledge' is about as racist, sexist and ageist a law can be.

Yet 'the laws the law' is about the best understanding you get from the Human Rights Commission. Are they asleep at the wheel here? The Commision of White Priviledge comes to mind.

The inescapable logic from those who would proscribe intolerance as therapy 'send the very clear bully boy message' that it is OK to treat law-abiding young folk as potentially guilty. Pop goes the Magna Carta and all that.

Drug testing and dogs is institutionalised compulsive demonisation of youth; it can only be damned as an admission of the current paradigms abject failure. (and it says even less about those who continue, despite evidence, to provaricate blanket prohibitions 'sucesses'.)

May common sense prevail. It may take a informed and empowered community and (subsequently) a few changes in the Boards of Trustees and school executive staff [and PPTA] but I am hopeful from discussions with some Secondary Principals who have recently been bearing the brunt of this issue, they are open to fresh ideas and are considering carefully what will serve their charges best.

There may yet be truth yet to 'it takes a village to raise a child' so let reason prevail sooner rather than later. Please.

I dont want to have to tell my grandchildren "In reality, it takes a user pays pathology laboratory to raise a child". It just doesnt have the same ring of wisdom to it.
Blair Anderson
Another MildGreen Initiative.
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