Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Dogs help school drugs clampdown – Isle of Man

I can’t remember if Joining Forces applies to the Isle of Man.

I suspect not, but even so it might be worth their police and education officials taking a look if they’re going to be doing this sort of thing.

Filed under: sniffer dogs

Solo attempt at battling drugs

The Argus Lite (a Brighton newspaper) run a sympathetic piece about a company which hires out drug dogs to businesses and schools:

Niall, a former door supervisor, has previously worked with schools on drug education programmes and said drug dogs are used in schools.

He said: “It’s a sad thing to say but schools are considering the use of dogs like Solo because they have drug problems.

“We go round schools routinely once a month and support what the headteacher wants to do. With that information we can educate parents and say this is a good school’.”

The guidance produced by the DCSF has this to say to schools contemplating using a company like this :

In deciding whether to use these approaches, schools will want to consult with local partners, including the police. It is essential that before a school takes the decision to use one of these strategies, it should consider very carefully the factors outlined in Appendix 10.

Sniffer dog demonstrations/educational visits

If sniffer dogs are to be used for demonstration or educational purposes schools will need to have procedures in place and have agreed in advance with the police what will happen should the sniffer dog indicate a trace on a pupil, member of staff or visitor to the school.

The purpose of demonstrations or educational visits should be made clear. Demonstrations/educational visits should never be used surreptitiously as a detection exercise.

Appendix 10 makes it clear that schools should seek the permision of parents (in writing) before using this tactic, should be aware of the Human Rights Act, be aware of cultural issues (Muslim and Buddhist cultures see dogs as unclean), and think about how they will handle the pastoral and press issues should a positive identification be found.

Filed under: sniffer dogs,

Sniffer dogs draw blank on drugs

BBC in Scotland, which is out of our patch (but it’s interesting so…):

A scheme to send sniffer dogs into a Galloway secondary school in order to keep drugs out of the premises has found no trace of illegal substances.The dogs have been deployed a number of times at the Douglas Ewart High School in Newton Stewart.

A report to go before local councillors shows that no drugs have been found during the random checks.

This is the second story in the last few weeks where the use of drug dogs in schools have been reported without the police finding drugs (the previous one being from South Wales).

In both cases the relatively new police guidance on how they should work with schools – Joining Forces – seems to have had little bite. To remind ourselves this is what the guidance says:

ACPO recommends that drugs dogs should not be used for searches where there is no evidence for the presence of drugs on school premises. Demonstration and educational visits should not be used as a covert detection exercise.

The guidance goes on to suggest the following:

Police should consider the following questions when deciding how to respond appropriately to a request from a school to conduct a search or use drugs dogs.

What is the purpose of the request?

  • If it is to act solely as a deterrent, and unless there is evidence of illegal drugs on the school premises, the request should generally be refused.
  • If the purpose is a demonstration of the use of drugs dogs, care should be taken in accordance with the DfES, Guidance, S4.10.2.
  • If there is suspicion, or the school has evidence of, illegal drug use, police should discuss the situation with the headteacher and, after assessing the evidence available, should consider obtaining a warrant.

We are very concious about the reputational issues that schools face in relation to illegal drugs, and can understand the reasons why they may want to be seen to be taking a proactive stance, but I’m not convinced that the use of sniffer dogs in this way is helpful.

Were this to be happening in an English school, the school would need to be able to demonstrate they had considered the issues raised in the government’s guidance to schools on this issue:

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.

Schools may also want to think about whether the use of sniffer dogs in this way is compatible with their Healthy School status.

Filed under: police, Scotland, sniffer dogs,

Police Launch Drugs Swoops In Schools – Wales

Across the border, and so not of immediate relevance, but of interest none the less the South Wales Argus say:

The entire year ten group from each school – pupils aged between 15 and 16 – were called into their school hall, where their bags were laid out for the drugs dogs to check.

Officers then used the force’s Ion Track drug detection system to swab doors, desks and other classroom surfaces to check for traces of drugs.

No individual tests were carried out on pupils.

The six officers involved in the operation found no traces of drugs at any of the schools.

PC Darrell Dewar, Cwmbran police’s crime and disorder reduction officer, said the tests were not carried out in relation to any specific incident or as a result of any evidence, but were part of an ongoing operation.

Joining Forces, the guidance from ACPO on police working with schools, has this to say about operations like this (and applies as much to Welsh police as it does to the English service):

ACPO recommends that drugs dogs should not be used for searches where there is no evidence for the presence of drugs on school premises.  Demonstration and educational visits should not be used as a covert detection exercise.

It is worth pointing out that Joining Forces is also clear about drug testing in schools saying:

Drug testing for those under the age of 16 requires prior parental consent to the act of testing.

If the newspaper report is to be believed then it is difficult to see how the force kept within the spirit of the guidance even if they avoided breaking the letter of it by not carrying out tests on individuals.

No traces of drugs were found in the school.

Filed under: police, random drug testing, sniffer dogs, Wales, , ,

Schools sniffer dog is unveiled

This is Lancashire have a story about a sniffer dog being deployed in schools:

MEET Bobby the sniffer dog, the 18-month-old English springer spaniel who can now be used by high school headteachers across the borough as part of a radical drive to keep drugs and weapons out of classrooms.

Bobby is employed by the Bury-based company, Premier K-9 Detection Services, who have already carried out a surprise swoop on one local school this year, where one drug user was uncovered.

The story includes a description of how the company operates within the school:

“We arrange with the school a time to go in and, on arrival, we carry out a demonstration and show our clients paperwork about the dog’s training history that removes all doubt about just how effective our searches are.

“Headteachers can hide a swab of marijuana or heroin trace anywhere on the premises they like and our dog will find it very quickly.

“From there, we start our real search, classroom by classroom. Teachers will be in lessons and order pupils to leave their jackets and belongings where they are and move into the corridor.

“Each search takes about five minutes per classroom so the children aren’t interrupted too much.

“The search we did at the Bury school took a total of two hours. In that time we went through all the classrooms, other rooms and the school grounds.

“During that time, we had one hit, in which the dog detected the smell of a drug on a jacket.

“The school didn’t take any action against an individual pupil, but it allowed the school to take other appropriate action.”

They also quote the council’s children’s services head of quality and advisory service who mirrors government advice and guidance for schools on the use of drug dogs:

“Guidance to schools states that the use of sniffer dogs can be part of their wider strategy where there is a belief that there is reasonable evidence of possession or supply of suspected illegal drugs.

“However, schools embarking on the use of sniffer dog searches without the authority of a police warrant should exercise extreme caution and ensure that any action is consistent with DCSF guidance and their own published policy.”

Filed under: sniffer dogs,

Call for sniffer dogs in schools

The BBC carries a call from Dr Seldon, the ubiquitous head of Wellington College for the government to pay for sniffer dogs:

Dr Anthony Seldon

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

Sniffer Dogs – Norfolk

The BBC has this:

Sniffer dogs used to find drugs in police raids or at prisons may be banned from school education visits.

A prison drugs dog at Heartsease High school in Norwich during an educational trip set official alarm bells ringing.

Norfolk County Council said they are worried an innocent pupil with traces of relatives’ cannabis could be shamed and are reviewing their policy.

The guidance to police says this about drug dogs:

Each police force should have their own policy on the use of dogs in schools, locally negotiated in agreement with the partners. Schools in England may request the use of police passive drugs dogs for educational or demonstration purposes (DfES, Guidance, 2004). Consideration should be given to individual and cultural sensitivities in the context of diversity and inclusion. If passive dogs do visit schools, the aims and objectives of such visits should be clarified with staff in advance. The use of drugs dogs to ‘frighten’ pupils into not bringing drugs onto school premises should be resisted. If passive dogs are to be used for demonstration or educational purposes there should be clear procedures agreed between staff and police officers about what will happen if a dog indicates a trace on a pupil, a member of staff or a visitor to the school.

However, the ACPO recommends that drugs dogs should not be used for searches where there is no evidence for the presence of drugs on school premises. Demonstration and educational visits should not be used as a covert detection exercise.

While the government’s advisors on drugs, the ACMD, said:

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.

Filed under: sniffer dogs,

Sniffer dogs sent to schools to tackle drug taking – Scotland

Out of our area but The Times reports on the use of sniffer dogs in schools in Scotland:

SNIFFER dogs are to be sent into schools across Scotland to tackle spiralling drug abuse among pupils.

Dealers and users have already been caught in a series of unannounced raids at schools in Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders and Highlands.

Now, the police dogs will be used to carry out random checks at schools across Scotland amid mounting evidence that cannabis is replacing tobacco as the drug of choice behind the bike sheds. [more]

A headteacher from one of the schools involved is quoted saying:

“We are sending out a clear message that drugs have no place in any school,” she said. “If no drugs are found, parents and staff will be reassured that pupils are not being exposed to that risk. However, if someone is found in possession of a banned substance, parents will be equally reassured that the situation has been exposed and dealt with.”

Filed under: Scotland, sniffer dogs

Drug Dogs In Your Kids’ Bedrooms?

Sunderland Today report on proposals being developed by Lord Mackenzie:

Under new proposals, parents concerned about their children would be able to let the animals into their homes.

The dogs and their handlers would be made available through schools and colleges in the city.

Former Durham Police superintendent and crime specialist Lord Mackenzie will submit the plans to the Government, after the success of Antisocial Behaviour Orders (Asbos). [more]

Lord Mackenzie is quoted saying that he will be submitting the proposals to the Prime Minister for consideration by the government. This proposal would – it seems to me – require considerable changes to the DfES guidance to schools on the issues they need to consider in relation to drug dogs.

Currently the DfES guidance on the use of drug dogs in schools 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 warrantled 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…

Where such action is planned for the purposes of detection schools are advised to make sure, in advance, that:

  • the intention to use such an approach is clearly stated in the school’s drug policy developed in consultation with pupils, parents, staff, governors and the whole school community
  • parents/carers have given their consent (usually in writing) to the proposed use of sniffer dogs at the request of the headteacher. This is good practice rather than a legal requirement.
  • procedures are in place to remove pupils for whom consent is not given
  • they have considered what action will be taken if drugs are found on any member of the school community (including staff and visitors), and that this has been communicated clearly and is consistent withresponses to other drug incidents
  • they are able to be sensitive to and respect the right to privacy of pupils whom the dog may identify either because they are taking prescription medicines or have been exposed to an environment where others have used drugs
  • plans are in place to deal with potential media interest.

In addition to informing parents/carers of the intention to use such an approach (and seeking their consent – see above), parents/carers should be notified immediately after such action has taken place. [more]

Filed under: sniffer dogs,

We’ll sniff out your kids’ drugs

The Liverpool Echo report that:

SNIFFER dogs are being hired by Merseyside parents to seek out their children’s drug stashes.

Worried parents are contacting Merseyside-based K9 Support Services to organise home searches checking if their youngsters are using or dealing drugs.

According to the BBC:

More than 60 sets of parents have commissioned Merseyside-based K9 Support Services since it began offering home searches in September.

The BBC’s report goes on to say:

The firm also offers free searches of schools for drug stashes.

Mr Taylor said a number of private schools had requested the search but local education authorities were still considering the offer.

Filed under: sniffer dogs

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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