St Albans and Harpenden headteachers warn parents about 'insidious problem' of teen drug use
PUBLISHED: 07:47 11 April 2019
Secondary school heads in St Albans and Harpenden have taken an unprecedented step of warning parents about the rise in drug use among pupils.
Earlier this month, an anonymous whistleblower teaching at a Harpenden school told the Herts Ad pupils as young as 15 were dealing Class A drugs like cocaine to other teenagers for cash.
Now 16 headteachers across the district have co-signed a letter offering information and advice on how to tackle the problem.
The heads attributed the increased availability and use of drugs to the affluence of the area.
They said: “Peer pressure is usually the main reason that young people get involved in drug use and, after alcohol, cannabis in its various forms, including the vaping of THC (the active chemical component of cannabis oil) is the main drug used, though it serves as an entry-level drug, providing a gateway to other more dangerous drugs over time.
“Additionally, there has been an alarming growth in the use of other drugs by young people including ketamine and cocaine.”
The letter was signed by the heads of Batchwood, Beaumont, Links Academy, Loreto, Marlborough, Nicholas Breakspear, Samuel Ryder, Sandringham, St Albans Girls’, Townsend and Verulam in St Albans, St Luke’s in Redbourn and Katherine Warington, Roundwood Park, Sir John Lawes and St George’s in Harpenden.
Headteachers are advising parents to sit down with their children and discuss drug-related issues. The letter explained that teenagers are experimenting with drugs at house parties and music festivals, and that after experiencing cannabis for the first time, 32 per cent of people aged between 16 and 24 become frequent users.
The letter also listed the common street prices of drugs, which are usually within the range of the average amount of pocket money for a teenager. These range from £5 to £15 for ecstasy per pill, to £40 for cocaine per gram.
They also warned parents that children can find out where drugs are available through Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and other platforms, without needing a contact number or an established relationship with a dealer.
Headteachers wrote: “All of the local schools in our consortium take a zero tolerance approach to drug misuse and parents are asked to keep in close touch with the respective school if they have any concerns of this sort.
“We need to work together to educate the young people to resist and not become caught up in this insidious problem.”
Parents were also reminded that it is a criminal offence to buy alcohol for a child under the age of 18. The exception is buying beer, cider or wine for a child over 16 on licensed premises, if they are accompanied by an adult.
In February, an 18-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy were arrested on the grounds of a Harpenden school for drug-related offences.
The older boy was arrested on suspicion of thefts, possession of a hammer, and being concerned in the supply of Class A and Class B drugs, and the younger boy was arrested for drugs offences and handling stolen goods.
Both boys have been expelled from the school, the 18-year-old was cautioned and the 17-year-old is still going through the young person’s court process.
Sgt Jordon Fox said: “The circumstances were thoroughly investigated with support from the school and this was deemed the most suitable outcome in this instance.”
The anonymous Harpenden whistleblower previously accused schools of ignoring drug use. She said: “Parents blame the schools and actually, let’s be honest, Harpenden has always had a drug problem but the schools are turning a blind eye. “I think it has got to the point where they haven’t got control.”
Matt Gauthier, chair of St Albans and Harpenden secondary schools’ heads, said: “We are a proactive group of headteachers and have been discussing sending out this letter for a number of months.
“We want to ensure that all families are well informed on how to keep their children safe, and this letter demonstrates the level of cooperation and support between schools in the district.”
Herts police are increasing patrols in areas known to be used by young people for antisocial behaviour and for selling or consuming drugs.
Anyone who has information on criminal activity should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111