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Rights of students breached by school drug-testing

Human rights of students breached by school drug-testing

Green MP Metiria Turei has urged an investigation into the practice of schools drug-testing students returning from suspensions, saying the procedure was unlawful and breached of the Human Rights Act.

Metiria, the Green Education spokesperson, has written to the Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Education and the Commissioner for Children, asking each to investigate the legality of a decision by Kaitaia College to test students returning from suspensions for methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

She said any inquiry should consider the practices of all schools, not singling out Kaitaia College specifically. The grounds for the investigations are discrimination on the basis of disability and the victimisation of students who refused a test by asserting their human rights.

"We are concerned that students returning from suspensions would be subjected to a humiliating and degrading drug test regardless of the reasons behind the suspension," said Metiria.

"A student with an undiagnosed learning disability is highly likely to be suspended for behavioural issues such as aggressive or disruptive behaviour.

"Subjecting children to a drug test on these grounds, regardless of whether or not there is any evidence of drug-use, is potentially an act of discrimination on the basis of disability.

"In addition a child who asserts their human rights by refusing a test might be the subject of unlawful victimisation if the school declines reinstatement on the grounds of that refusal."

Metiria said the Ministry of Education has failed schools by not providing adequate funding for moderate special needs and drug education. Because of bulk funding schools are allocating the bulk of resources to students with greater needs, leaving those with moderate needs to cope in the mainstream system.

"Schools and teachers are doing their best with limited resources, but the Ministry's neglect has left schools with only the sanctions of stand-downs and suspensions to combat behavioural problems in schools.

"The Ministry should be held accountable for the 1077 children were kicked out of school for drug problems because their school simply doesn't have the time or resources to help them," said Metiria.

"Education's failures now too often become much more serious problems for the police, courts and social welfare in future years.

"The Ministry of Education must increase funding for special needs education, drug education and treatment to give schools effective tools to manage students with difficulties."

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