School heads want consultation on drug-test legislation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2009, 12:00am

A secondary school principals' group yesterday called on the government to begin consultations on legislation on drug testing at schools, after a survey found more than 90 per cent of principals said pupils suspected of having taken drugs should be tested.

The poll, conducted by the Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools in early September, interviewed 216 secondary school principals.

Nearly 80 per cent of respondents supported introducing drug testing at all schools.

About 91.6 per cent said pupils suspected of having taken drugs should be required to undergo tests, while 66 per cent supported random tests.

More than 60 per cent said two drug-testing models should be adopted to make drug prevention more effective.

One involved the testing of pupils because there was reasonable cause for suspicion that they were taking drugs and the other was based on random selection.

Almost 80 per cent of principals said pupils should not be allowed to refuse tests, despite the fact that under present drug-testing proposals pupils can refuse a test even after their parents have signed consent forms.

Tin Ka Ping Secondary School principal Yuen Pong-yiu said the poll results showed the government's voluntary testing scheme might have to become mandatory.

'This is a case between individual human rights and public interest,' Yuen said.

'The government has to strike a balance between these two. The administration should begin discussions about possible legislation to find out to what extent the scheme should be made compulsory.'

Association member and Fanling Kau Yan College principal Veronica Yau Kit-ying said that since there were no legal grounds for compulsory drug tests, there was a need to discuss the matter.

Yuen said the association was not pushing for compulsory drug testing. 'We are just making a suggestion responding to the findings in our poll,' he said. 'Also, we think it is important for stakeholders, parents and students to express their views about this.' The poll also found 72 per cent of those surveyed said test results should only be made known to counsellors to protect pupils' privacy and 64.3 per cent said police should only become involved if a pupil was suspected of being a drug dealer.

About 70 per cent of the principals said pupils who tested positive should not be expelled or asked to quit school.

Association member and Lingnan Secondary School principal Law Chan-fai stressed that did not mean the other 30 per cent of the principals supported expelling students.

'The remaining 30 per cent might be thinking that there are better alternatives for students such as short-term rehabilitation programmes which could help them return to mainstream school in the future,' Law said.

More than 95 per cent of respondents wanted the Education Bureau to set up a central mechanism to which to refer pupils found to have taken drugs repeatedly or to refer such pupils to organisations that specialised in helping young drug users.