MORIAH College is to introduce random drug testing, and locker and bag searches in an attempt to stamp out drug use and vaping in the community.
Parents have applauded the measures, which were outlined in an email from principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler on September 13 and are part of a broader plan to counter the issue after a group of students used cannabis and e-cigarettes at a recent year 10 Counterpoint camp.
“We now understand, with greater clarity, the extent of the drug and vaping culture among young people generally, to which Moriah is not immune,” Rabbi Smukler said.
“As a school, we must take a stance to tackle these issues that impact on the wellbeing of all our students.”
Noting that keeping children safe “requires education, policy and practice, and deterrence”, Rabbi Smukler said the college is embarking on “a wide-scale and multifaceted program to create a positive counterculture” to vaping and drug use among young people.
“Our aim is to assign these such a negative connotation that our students feel empowered to stand up and say that it’s not okay and not acceptable,” he said.
As part of the program, parents and students will be required to attend mandatory education sessions, students will be subject to “random and targeted regular drug screening and bag, locker and pocket searches” and students will be assisted to gain the confidence to resist peer pressure around vaping and drug use.
The college also plans to create a coalition of parents from each year level and partner with them “to mobilise our entire parent body to stand up against these behaviours”.
“As a college, we are steadfast in accepting our collective responsibility to educate and take a leading role in eradicating this insidious culture from our community,” Rabbi Smukler said.
A number of parents The AJN canvassed supported the approach, one calling it “long overdue”. “The school has got it right,” the parent said.
Another said, “They have adopted a balanced approach of education and monitoring … good on the school for stepping up and taking a tough stance.”
Clinical psychologist Dr Danielle Einstein also supported the “comprehensive approach”.
“Community engagement and collaboration is needed to foster an environment that is resistant to substance use. Uniting parents behind the initiative is a good way to encourage parents to work with the school to tackle a recognised problem,” she told The AJN.
She added the inclusion of drug testing “within a broader program is sensible”.
“In an environment with strong peer pressure, drug testing can provide a socially acceptable reason for students to refuse marijuana or other illicit substances,” she said.
Jewish House CEO Rabbi Mendel Kastel, who has experience dealing with the issue of drug use, said, “The leadership at Moriah think it might be the best way forward and I can’t really argue with that.”
He noted it affects all schools and said “we can’t make believe” the problem doesn’t exist.
“We need to be able to have an open and honest discussion to ensure kids are not hurt, and people who need help can get that help and talk about it an honest and non-judgemental environment.”