The Australian July 2019
Family First Comment: Ssshhh – don’t tell the Greens or the Drug Foundation, but promoting drug free actually works. 🎉😄
“A Queensland school that was panned for introducing mandatory drug testing seven years ago has hailed the policy a success, with its principal claiming it has helped students to resist societal pressures to take drugs.”
A Queensland school that was panned for introducing mandatory drug testing seven years ago has hailed the policy a success, with its principal claiming it has helped students to resist societal pressures to take drugs.
The Southport School on the Gold Coast attracted national headlines in 2012 when, looking for a new way to handle the issue of students dabbling with drugs, it unveiled the drug testing policy.
“We had some issues that saw some boys expelled so we asked ourselves is there anything else we can do,” principal Greg Wain said.
“I started looking around at drug prevention polices and found that a lot of education campaigns just weren’t working. Many (drugs) actually pique the boys’ interest because many of them think they’re 10-feet tall and bulletproof and are natural risk-takers.”
The independent school, which counts a swag of elite athletes among its alumni, as well as former Queensland premier Rob Borbidge and Australian News Channel boss Paul Whittaker, is not alone in grappling with how to prevent teenage drug use.
While drug testing in schools is not popular or widespread — Victoria’s Department of Education does not recommend it, while NSW does not permit it — recent revelations from the NSW inquiry into the drug-related deaths of young people at music festivals have many experts questioning the effectiveness of drug education programs.
As part of the national health curriculum, schools are required to deliver drug education to students and each state sets its own drug education policy that includes dealing with drug-related incidents in schools.
The prevailing approach is based on harm-minimisation and supporting young people who have drug issues.
Mr Wain was initially opposed to drug testing students, concerned it would erode trust. However, the policy attracted overwhelming support from students and their families, who backed it on the condition that those who tested positive for the first time would be provided with confidential counselling. A second positive test results in expulsion. Now, on a Monday morning every few weeks, around 40 boys are selected to take a urine test. Two or three boys out of 900 record a positive test each year and since the policy’s introduction, four have been unable to stay off drugs and have been expelled.