Drug tests at school formals
Hannah Edwards September 24, 2006
THE growing popularity of ice and ecstasy has forced organisers of school formals to introduce screening tests for students suspected of using the amphetamines.
One Sydney event organiser, who runs formals for about 30,000 students each year, has developed a set of procedures to check for illegal drug use.
Elliot Kleiner, senior partner with Prom Night Events, said the procedures were necessary because the successful policing of alcohol use had caused some students to opt for stronger alternatives.
"It's hard to get inside the teenagers' minds and ask them why they are choosing eccys ecstasy but the obvious inference is that if they know there are very accurate and effective methods of detecting alcohol then this may contribute to them choosing other things as an alternative," Mr Kleiner said.
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The school formal season is set to begin with most events in NSW held between the end of the HSC exams in November and the beginning of schoolies activities.
Prom Night Events, which organises formals for years 10, 11 and 12 students at public and private schools, sends a security team of up to 10 guards to its events depending on the type of venue and number of students attending.
It screens and sweeps the venue for drugs and alcohol and everyone attending the formal, including students, teachers and parents, is breath tested for alcohol.
Bags and receptacles are searched, metal detectors are used and tickets are validated electronically.
The new three-step drug screening process includes initial visual checking for symptoms. If these are confirmed, a variety of "non-intrusive" electronic implements are then used to further determine whether the drugs have been used.
Mr Kleiner would not elaborate on the exact screening instruments used by his company, saying that doing so would make it easy for students to escape detection. He stressed that the methods were quick, unobtrusive and only students exhibiting symptoms of illicit drug taking would be tested.
The drug procedures, trialled at 20 formals organised by the company late last year, will be introduced in the 2006 formal season.
Of the five students identified as "red flags" in the first stage of analysis, all were cleared after the second stage of testing. Finally, verbal checking takes place with a series of questions asked by the security team.
"The ultimate aim of these procedures is the safety of emerging young adults," Mr Kleiner said.
Alcohol & other Drugs Council of Australia chief executive Donna Bull said the availability of ice was increasing and that Federal Government figures showed that 4.4 per cent of 14- to 19-year-olds said they had recently tried methamphetamines.
She said ecstasy and ice were both stimulants and symptoms of use included increased heart rate, energy and blood pressure.
She said that the company's methods were "quite a proactive approach" but she warned that not all drug testing equipment was 100 per cent reliable.
Source: The Sun-Herald