Parents back drug-test plan, but some don't understand it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am

Only about a third of parents say they understand the proposed school drug-testing scheme, a survey shows.

But they gave firm support for the controversial pilot plan. The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre said 71 per cent were in favour and 68.2 per cent believed the scheme could serve as a deterrent.

Some 714 parents and guardians of pupils at secondary schools were questioned at the height of a heated debate between last month and early this month. The first phase of testing is to begin in December in all 23 secondary schools in Tai Po.

Almost half of the parents were worried the scheme would create or sharpen conflict between pupils and the school, while 37.7 per cent thought it would affect their relationship with their children.

About 40 per cent said police liaison officers should be informed of the drug test results, and 66.9 per cent said police should trace drug sources through pupils who tested positive.

Early, this month, the government tweaked the scheme to keep police out of the drug testing after strong opposition from lawyers, who said the scheme should not be used to assist criminal investigations.

Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, chairman of the think tank that is close to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, said youth drug abuse had become a serious problem and called for the scheme to be rolled out in all schools as soon as possible. 'It is heartbreaking to see teenagers, at 13 or 14, live a woozy life [after taking drugs]. The damage to them is irreversible,' he said. 'What is needed is more communication with parents, students ... to facilitate better understanding of the scheme, including its objectives, execution and supporting services.'

Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on said they were encouraged by the parents' support and would continue to explain details once they were finalised.