The possession, use, distribution or selling of illicit drugs is prohibited by law. Schools have obligations in accordance with the law.
Schools should have clearly defined policies and procedures relating to illicit drugs clearly documented and included in the school’s drug education policy framework.
In the case of incidents involving illicit drugs, initial actions and responses should focus on the safety and welfare of those directly and indirectly involved. Sanctions or consequences may then follow according to the school’s code of conduct.
Staff should be made aware of the school’s policies and procedures in relation to illicit drugs and be provided with professional development in responding to drug related incidents. Where school personnel become aware that illicit drug use by students is occurring or is likely to take place, there is a clear ‘duty of care’ to pass on this information via the defined school channels.
Informing the police
The possession, use, distribution or selling of illicit drugs is prohibited under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic).
Under Section 5 of the Act, schools are required to notify police should they come into possession of an illicit substance. The Act defines possession as follows:
‘any substance shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be in the possession of a person so long as it is upon any land or premises occupied by him or is used, enjoyed or controlled by him in any place whatsoever, unless the person satisfies the court to the contrary.’
Consequently, if the Principal intervenes or takes action as a result of knowledge of an alleged criminal offence, including the use, possession and distribution of illicit drugs, the local police contact person must be advised. Internal procedures and actions undertaken should be clearly documented.
In the case of incidents involving illicit substances the Principal would normally contact the parents or guardians of the student(s) as soon as practicable. While there are implications in civil law it should be noted that a teacher or Principal does not breach any part of the criminal law by failure to notify a parent of use of an illicit drug.
You may be in breach of your duty of care responsibilities. You may also be in breach of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic).