Less than 60pc of pupils sign consent forms for drug tests

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

Almost 60 per cent of pupils in 23 Tai Po secondary schools say they will join a voluntary drug testing scheme.

This is less than the 70 per cent indicated by an earlier survey but organisers say it is enough to get the scheme off the ground.

The 22,000 pupils at the schools, where the government is trying out the tests this month, were sent consent forms last month, together with pamphlets and instructional DVDs, and were asked to return the forms by November 30.

By yesterday 20,332 consent forms had been returned, of which 12,387 indicated consent to join the scheme - about 61 per cent of the respondents and a little under 58 per cent of all the pupils.

A Security Bureau spokesman said the government welcomed the 'positive response' from the pupils and their parents and said those who had not yet joined were welcome to do so at any time.

The six-month drug-testing scheme, which includes a year of support services for pupils, was expected to cost HK$11 million, an official familiar with the scheme said.

Kwok Wing-keung, who chairs the Association of Secondary School Heads, Tai Po District, said a participation rate of more than 60 per cent in such a new pilot scheme was a 'big step forward' in the anti-drug campaign.

Ng Siu-ki, principal of Sun Fong Chung College in Tai Po, said the scheme had received enough backup to get off the ground.

He said it was too early to predict whether those who did not give approval would resist the scheme.

Billy Tang Kam-piu, representative of the Lutheran Cheer Centre, which is the government's designated counselling centre to help drug users, said the consent percentage was a little lower than the 70 per cent they had expected, but was an acceptable figure, given the lack of consultation for the scheme.

'For those 40 per cent who did not consent, I hope that they could express themselves in other ways. To join or not is not important, I hope they will find other ways to face the drug problem on campuses,' Tang said.

A lawmaker of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Gary Chan Hak-kan, said the consent rate was a little lower than an earlier survey had indicated. He said privacy concerns could be one reason.

'As the schools were distributing the forms, the name of a school which had accepted an undercover officer in an anti-drug campus operation was leaked,' he said.

'Undoubtedly that would undermine parents' and students' confidence in the scheme.'

Ho Chu-ping, president of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations, Tai Po district, which had expected 70 per cent at most, said the consent figure was acceptable. 'We should give it a try and see how effective it is,' he said.

The bureau said the government would commission a research organisation to assess the design, execution procedure and effectiveness of the scheme.