30 Sep 2011

Principals disappointed sniffer drug searches ceasing

8:55 pm on 30 September 2011

Some education groups are unhappy at a police decision to stop random sniffer-dog drug searches in schools.

The General Manager of Strategy, Policy and Performance, Kevin Kelly, says police will no longer be available to do the searches because of advice that the checks breach the Bill of Rights and hence are illegal.

Mr Kelly says there are many ways to tackle the issue of drugs in schools, but a widespread sniffer dog search is not one of them.

He says the police will continue to use dogs in schools in an educational role.

The president of the Secondary Principals' Association, Patrick Walsh, says, while the decision will be greeted with glee by some students, it is very disappointing because the searches send a message to students that drugs will not be tolerated.

Stopping the searches, he says, could have serious consequences since schools will have one tool less to use in their efforts to ensure a drug-free environment and those wanting to carry out searches will now have to hire private companies at a considerable cost.

The Chairman of the Association of Boys' Schools, Roger Moses, echoes that view.

He says he does not think the dog searches for drugs have been overused or that there has been a breach of human rights.

He says the vast majority of parents want schools to be free of drugs and the rights of the majority should be given consideration in this case.

Mr Moses, who is also the Headmaster of Wellington College, hopes police will change their minds and reinstate the service.

He is also calling for police to play a more active role in schools, especially in an education role.

However, one principal - Trevor McIntyre of Christchurch Boy's High School - says the police decision to stop dog searchers for drugs will not affect his school.

Mr McIntyre says he has always used a private company to carry out drugs searches, usually on an annual basis, as police are often too busy.