Rise in number of students being excluded

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TWO students a week are being excluded for long periods from public schools over drugs, as the State Government prepares protocols for police to use sniffer dogs more often on campus.

Latest figures from the Education Department’s behaviour snapshot of Term 2 last year show 21 students were excluded, up from eight in the same term the previous year and 19 in 2015.

Of the 21 cases, 15 involved illicit drugs and six prescription drugs.

Excluded students cannot attend their regular school for up to a term, or the rest of a semester for students aged over 16.

While there were more exclusions, the number of short-term suspensions for less serious drug incidents fell from 38 to 17 in Term 2, 2017.

“I am concerned to see the use and possession of illegal drugs in any setting, and on school grounds these substances are totally unacceptable,” Education Minister John Gardner said.

“It requires a strong response and demonstrates the need for our Education Department to work closely with SAPOL to tackle illicit drugs, in line with our election commitments.”

Last month, Premier Steven Marshall confirmed he was sticking with his campaign pledge for more use of sniffer dogs in schools, even if a formal direction to police was required.

Mr Gardner said he had held “constructive” meetings with police and the Catholic and private school sectors “to develop a stronger approach to drugs in schools”.

“This includes developing protocols for visits by drug sniffer dogs in appropriate circumstances,” he said.

“It will also involve greater utilisation of drug education programs such as those provided by SAPOL and non-government organisations.”

The department said drugs, either illegal or prescription, were involved in 7.1 per cent of exclusions in Term 2, 2017, but only 0.3 per cent of suspensions. There have been more suspensions for illicit than prescription drugs in each of the past three years.

“While the majority of South Australian students are not involved in these activities, we are very serious about deterring young people from any involvement with illegal drugs,” Mr Gardner said.

“Our strong message is that there are consequences for students who break the rules.”

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