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"Mucking around" no excuse for drug-test

18 September, 2003
"Mucking around" no excuse for drug-test

Nelson College is turning down a dangerous and reprehensible path of suspecting - to the point of accusing - its students of doing drugs because their performance might be dropping, said Green MP Metiria Turei.

Metiria, the Green Education spokesperson, has called on the Minister of Education to investigate whether Nelson College's plan to drug-test students simply because of falling grades or even just "mucking around" breaches both the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights.

"If the potential consequences of this action were not so tragic, this plan could be dismissed as absurd," said Metiria. "However, to drug-test someone simply on the grounds that they're not performing in class is an abomination.

"For crying out loud, these are teenage kids. If today's generation of teenagers is anything like the one before, and the one before that, then there will be some playing up in class, there will be periods of inattentiveness, and there will be times when these young developing minds challenge the teachers.

"If Nelson College's trustees don't understand this, then maybe they should look for a new line of work. This is not the action of a caring school, rather this the action of a school more interested in developing a climate of fear to keep its students in line.

"Essentially, this drug-test plan will make drug suspects out of every student going through a rough patch."

Metiria said the issue was about how schools and communities assist young people trying to cope with personal problems. The solution would be found in open dialogue, not suspicion and fear.

"Many students have undiagnosed learning disorders that become apparent in their teenage years. I struggle to see how a drug-test could reveal this. Simple communication would be far more effective.

"I have grave concerns about the consequences if someone refused to be tested when there is no more evidence other than what the teacher suspects of that student. Being sick of maths is no good reason to kick someone out of school and deny their right to an education.

"I suspect that, more often than not, this will be used as a first-choice disciplinary action by the board to weed out the students that dare to challenge the school.

"We should encourage our young people to speak out and tell the truth about how they feel. Parents should set a good example by telling Nelson College what an ass this new rule would be," said Metiria.

The Nelson College Board of Trustees is expected to consider the drug-test plan at a meeting tonight.


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