NCRPO: Surprise drug checks for students up to DepEd
Despite its initial reservations about a police proposal to conduct surprise checks of students’ bags and lockers for drugs, the Department of Education (DepEd) said that it was not opposed to the move although it stressed that the rights and privacy of students should be respected.
DepEd officials and teachers’ groups earlier expressed concern over the suggestion made last week by National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director, Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar.
But he has since clarified that the police would not be involved in the inspections, saying the final decision to push through with his proposal was up to DepEd.
Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla, DepEd spokesperson, told the Inquirer on Tuesday that Education Secretary Leonor Briones sent on Monday a letter to PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde asking for a meeting to discuss Eleazar’s proposal.
Schools as peace zones
“Generally, we do not object [to the idea] … but we want to [uphold] the child protection policy and the declaration of schools as zones of peace,” Sevilla said. Under existing agreements with DepEd, the police and military are barred from entering school premises without prior clearance.
“But we do not deny that there are instances that illegal drugs are recovered from schools,” she added.
Eleazar, who made the proposal during a forum in Manila on June 6, cited the case of a Grade 6 student who was caught with 22 sachets of marijuana in his bag last year.
The student’s belongings were searched after the school principal saw him holding a lighter. Follow-up operations led to the arrest of the drug suppliers, Eleazar said.
“We have been [waging a] war on drugs for nearly two years and yet we still arrest so many drug users and pushers,” he told the Inquirer. “We cannot fully deal with the problem without also addressing new [drug] peddlers.”
Curiosity, peer pressure
Also, he stressed that schools were not being singled out, adding that curiosity and peer pressure could lead students to drugs. “Whether there are inspections or not, it can serve as [a] deterrent for the students,” he said.
Eleazar said he met with Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo on Monday to initially discuss his proposal.
He clarified that during inspections, the police would take a hands-off stance, with teachers and parents doing the checking.
Sevilla said that even before Eleazar’s suggestion, the DepEd had been implementing its antidrug program in schools through class discussions and students’ co-curricular activities.
Random drug tests among students, teachers and other school personnel were also implemented. In fact, during the first round of testing late last year, some students turned out positive although Sevilla did not give more details.
“We also learned that some schools, particularly in Quezon City, have been doing their own inspections through an agreement between the principal and parent-teachers’ associations,” she said.
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