by CSSDP Board

Last week in the Niagara Regional Police, using police dogs, were sent to eight high schools in coordinated searches coinciding with “420”.

Article: Police search eight high schools for drugs 

OVERVIEW: the police searched eight area high schools, identifying 22 students who were in possession of drugs, or who were determined to have recently used them. Police seized drug paraphernalia, steroids, marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, and charged one young offender with possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Some say that searches like this are necessary, because it’s unhealthy for high school age students with still-developing brains to take drugs. If that’s the case, why do we continue to take a crime-and-punishment approach to this problem? Is there a better way to address the fact that youth are taking drugs, without compromising their futures with a criminal record?

Here are some specific problems that we have with searches like these.

Safe Learning Environments?
A few stoned students might be disturbing their own learning, but we seriously doubt that any of the students who had recently consumed cannabis were as detrimental to their peers’ learning as a police raid complete with sniffer dogs. From an educator’s perspective, that would be massive disturbance to the school environment. Asking students to resume learning after what must have been an exciting, and for some, a traumatic experience, is a tall order.
Is it right to disrupt the learning of an entire school, in order to take punitive measures against end drug users?

Criminalizing Youth
A high school student caught with cannabis, who could be selling it to his/her peers, is a far cry from the organized crime that the federal government claims to be taking aim at with the recently passed Bill C-10. Had the youth charged been just a bit older, he would be facing adult charges and a mandatory two year sentence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act 5(3)(a)(ii)(C).

Deterrents Undermine Trust
The use of deterrents like drug dogs assume that youth are untrustworthy. They undermine the ability of educators and youth to build relationships built on honest dialogue.

What do YOU think about drug dogs and searches in high schools? How can we make schools safe and nurturing spaces for learning – including a judgment-free discussion about drugs?

NOTE: the picture above is not from recent Niagara drug search (we couldn’t find a picture, sorry). It is taken from an article about similar searches in New Zealand. To see the article, click here.