The BBC carries a call from Dr Seldon, the ubiquitous head of Wellington College for the government to pay for sniffer dogs:
Sniffer dogs are hired to search the premises at Wellington every term.
“The children never know when they’re coming in and where they’re going,” said Dr Seldon.
“It helps them realise they can’t get away with it. The amount of problems I’ve had has dwindled to insignificance.”
The DfES points out that they have some guidance on this, and that deploying sniffer dogs is an operational decision best left to individual headteachers. The guidance has this to say about the use of dogs for deterrent effect:
Involvement of sniffer dogs purely as a deterrent
A headteacher requesting the use of sniffer dogs solely as a deterrent, where there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion and where prior consent has not been sought, will need to consider possible challenges by parents and pupils under the Human Rights Act.
Schools should ensure that if sniffer dogs are used for detection or as a deterrent, they form part of an on-going whole school approach to managing drugs on school premises rather than an isolated action.
Furthermore, the police guidance issued by ACPO says:
Involvement of sniffer dogs at the request of the headteacher
Where a school believes that there is reasonable evidence of possession or supply of suspected illegal drugs they should consult their local police. The advice from ACPO is that local police, if they are to respond with the use of sniffer dogs, should do so as part of a warrant-led operation, unless evidence may be lost by delaying the search.
However, schools considering sniffer dog searches without the authority of a police warrant should exercise extreme caution before doing so. They should consider very carefully whether such action:
- is consistent with the pastoral responsibility of the school to create a supportive environment is culturally insensitive – for example, dogs are considered unclean in Muslim and Buddhist cultures
- will lead to labelling and be damaging to pupils concerned
- will result in appropriate support for pupils most in need
- is feasible and an effective use of school resources, and those of the police, where involved.
Finally, the government’s advisory committee in their Pathways to Problems report says:
We recommend that drug testing and sniffer dogs should not be used in schools. We consider that the complex ethical, technical and organisational issues, the potential impact on the school-pupil relationship and the costs would not be offset by the potential gains.
Dr Seldon also expresses the view that there should be no “second chances” for those caught in possession of illegal drugs. I’m sure that as Dr Seldon runs an independent school he won’t have to worry about this case, or what the DfES guidance has to say about appropriate sanctions:
Exclusion should only be considered for serious breaches of the school’s behaviour policy, and should not be imposed without a thorough investigation unless there is an immediate threat to the safety of others in the school or the pupil concerned. It should not be used if alternative solutions have the potential to achieve a change in the pupil’s behaviour and are not detrimental to the whole school community.
I’ve taken a look at the Wellington College website, but can’t find a copy of their drug or behaviour policy there.
I wonder if Dr Seldon is aware that one of the risk factors for future problematic drug use is being labelled a drug user? And if so whether he thinks he might be adding to the risks his pupils face?
Filed under: independent schools, school drug policy, sniffer dogs