Keeping your child safe from drugs and knives

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Guidance about how to protect your child from the dangers of drugs and knives at school.

How common are drugs and knives in school?

It’s difficult to know how common drugs and knives are in schools. Many schools believe they have no problems with either illegal substances or weapons. But it's known that both drug use and knife carrying are on the increase among young people.

A recent survey for the NHS found that between 15-20% of young people aged 11 to 15 had taken drugs in the past year. The most commonly-used drug was cannabis.

The use of Class A drugs among teenagers is also on the increase – the number of under-18s treated for cocaine addiction has increased by 65% over the past five years.

Figures on knife crime are of particular relevance to young people - four in five offenders are teenagers and a third of victims are aged 10 to 17.

How do schools deal with drugs and knives?

Schools are doing more and more to tackle these problems. As well as students receiving lessons about the dangers of drugs and knives, head teachers now have powers to search pupils (without parental consent), which is sometimes done by security staff at the school gate.

Some schools also use sniffer dogs to search for drugs. In this case parental consent is needed, and if it isn't given, pupils are searched by hand.

If Class A drugs are found on pupils, the police are usually brought in. If cannabis or 'soft' drugs are found, and it’s a first offence, pupils may be asked to attend a course to learn about the dangers of drug use.

It's a criminal offence to bring a knife or offensive weapon into a school. If a pupil is found with a knife, it is likely they will be questioned by the police and may be prosecuted.

Being found in possession of drugs or a knife would both be grounds for permanent exclusion, depending on the school's decision.

How can I protect my child from drugs?

  • Talk to your child about drugs and the dangers - there's no evidence that talking about drugs encourages children to take them.
  • Encourage your child to tell you if they're ever offered drugs.
  • Be aware of the signs of drug use. These involve changes in appearance, changes in eating and sleeping habits, moodiness and a lack of openness. Friendships could change too. Of course, many teenagers who aren't taking drugs also go through these changes, so be careful before jumping to conclusions.
  • If you suspect or know your child is taking drugs, you can call the Talk to Frank helpline on 0800 776600 or go to www.talktofrank.com.

Former drug-user Hayley has been clean for three years and wants to show others that no matter what they get into, there's always a way out.

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How can I protect my child from knives?

  • Make sure your child knows that it's illegal to carry a knife with intent to use it as a weapon, even in self-defence. Being found with a knife - and the police can search anyone they suspect of having a knife - could lead to your child being arrested, going to court and getting a criminal record or even a prison sentence. It could also lead to permanent exclusion from their school.
  • Talk to your child about the dangers of carrying a knife. Carrying a knife actually increases the chances of being stabbed or injured - an attacker could use your knife against you.
  • Stress that not carrying a knife, and walking away from potentially dangerous situations, is cleverer and tougher than getting involved.

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