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Lawyer warns against student drug tests

Lawyer warns against student drug tests

A Queensland lawyer warns proposed random drug tests on students is a legal minefield.

Moves by The Southport School on the Gold Coast to randomly conduct drug tests on its students are potentially a legal minefield, defence lawyer Bill Potts claimed.

He said the school, which wants to stamp out party drug use, could find itself unwittingly becoming an arm of the police, and even attracting litigation from parents.

“There’s a real fear the school authorities have not thought this through. If the school finds evidence of drugs in a student’s system, does the school notify the police? Does it then become an arm of the police and if it does not report the student to police, is the school thus part of a possible criminal act?” he said.

Potts, a director of Potts Lawyers, Queensland’s biggest private criminal defence law firm, said it was an offence for a person to even procure drugs for their own use.

“This is an example of the legal minefield TSS or any school could blunder into once you start down this path. It would be natural for some parents to be outraged if they believed their school regarded their child as a drug user.

“Once you start drug testing, where does it go from there? Does the school’s role change from education to being a gatherer of evidence for the police?” the lawyer said.

He said drugs like marijuana left traces in the system for weeks. A test might detect traces of a marijuana smoke from a month earlier. The tests could not necessarily prove when a student used or was exposed to drugs.

“A shared joint on Saturday night could show up in a school test days later. Should the student be expelled for that? Should police be involved? The school authorities need to stop and think this whole thing through.

“There’s a fear students could find themselves dragged into police investigations and be traumatised in the process. TSS reportedly intends having its random drug tested processed at a pathology laboratory. This becomes part of the evidence chain if police become involved,” Potts said.

He said he is not accepting drug use and said anti-drug education in schools is essential, but he argues that when a school involves itself in random drug testing, it inevitably stumbled into unknown legal territory.

“Does the school even have a legal right to do random drug tests? Have parents agreed to this and if not, could parents sue the school if their child is tested? This is an example of just one of the legal “mines” in the minefield,” he said.

“I think The Southport School, or any school contemplating random drug testing of its pupils, should stop and carefully think the whole thing through and not make any decision until parents and all relevant stakeholders have given their input,” Potts said.

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