27 Oct 2012

Principals want right to use drug dogs retained

4:29 pm on 27 October 2012

A school principal who used a drug dog to search his school earlier this year is unhappy the Government wants to ban the practice.

The Education Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament last week will stop schools from using sniffer dogs while students are present and prevent them from requiring drug tests from students.

The principal of Freyberg High School in Palmerston North, Peter Brooks, says searches are a good deterrent because they show students how easily a dog can find drugs.

Mr Brooks says he hopes Parliament will change the bill.

The Ministry of Education says the changes are influenced by the Bill of Rights Act, which protects students from unreasonable search and seizure.

But the Secondary Principals Association says the legality of drug searches and tests in schools has never been tested in court, and the proposed changes are a step backwards in the fight against drugs.

"I think they're misreading the public and parent opinion on this," says association president Patrick Walsh, "because the feedback we get from parents and the public is they definitely want schools to take a hard line on drugs."

Mr Walsh says schools often use drug tests to confirm that a student suspended for using or selling drugs can return to school and safely use equipment like bandsaws and drills.

Secondary Principals' Council chair Allan Vester says schools need the tests as a deterrent and to identify students who use drugs in order to help rehabilitate them.

Civil rights lawyer Michael Bott says if the changes are not approved, the main concern is that schools will use the tests and searches as a tool to expel students unnecessarily.