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Official's reassurance on schools drug vigilance

An executive officer of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission has moved to reassure parents and the public that the extent of drug use in Catholic schools as reported in the media is exaggerated.

The Catholic Leader quotes Queensland Catholic Education Commission (QCEC) executive officer for education, Tony Kitchen, who spoke out in the wake of media attention to a controversy in a Brisbane state high school last month which resulted in seven students being expelled for smoking marijuana in the school grounds.

Mr Kitchen said any suggestion that high schools are tolerating or ignoring illicit drug use by students is totally incorrect and way off the mark. The true situation, he said, is "totally the opposite", with Catholic school systems working collaboratively with the state sector to be proactive on this issue.

"I reject out of hand any move to blame schools for these problems. We do the best we can and we're doing some great work," he said.

"There's a drug problem in our community - there's a drug problem in every community across the world, to an extent," he said. "(But) students are beginning to make better choices, more informed choices because what we're able to offer in education is of better quality."

There is little accurate data on the level of illicit drug use by Queensland school students, but Queensland Drug and Alcohol Foundation chief executive Bob Aldred is accepting the report that Education Queensland estimates 700 students each term are being suspended for substance abuse.

In 2000, Brisbane Catholic Education issued 'Guidelines for Managing Drug Related Incidents in Catholic Schools'.

That document said: 'Drug use at school remains infrequent' and 'incidents involving drugs in schools account for a minority of the critical incidents that may lead to discipline, counselling or a general disruption to the operation of the school'.

Brisbane Catholic Education's senior education officer in guidance and counselling and student protection services, Ray Reynolds, said last week that would still be the case.

Drugs in schools (Catholic Leader 4/7/04)

Queensland Catholic Education Commission

2 Jul 2004