|Cannabis and alcohol pose a growing threat to schools as society descends into "moral freefall", a leading headteacher warned today.|
David Chapman, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, said many schools no longer took a zero tolerance approach to pupils who use the drug, while police were "not particularly interested" in taking action.
Mr Chapman also condemned ministers for not reclassifying cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug and criticised the Government's controversial 24-hour drinking reforms, warning that alcohol "led young people to ruin."
Speaking at the society's annual conference in Torquay, Mr Chapman, who is also head of Hampshire Collegiate School, Romsey, said: "The fact that a lot of well known schools have moved to a position away from zero tolerance suggests that we can't hold the line any longer. We haven't got the backup from the law as it stands."
Asked how bad the problem of cannabis use among teenagers was, Mr Chapman said: "I think it causes difficulties for virtually every headteacher every day."
He continued: "We are in a freefall situation in terms of society drawing a line and saying what we think is right and wrong.
"I would like to see a much clearer line being taken. The message to young people is that the police don't really care any more about cannabis possession, and therefore neither do most adults.
"Many of our schools take a stance of zero tolerance, which merely removes the problem to evenings and weekends, outside of school."
He quoted from an online 'no nonsense drugs guide', which told teenagers that police "will most likely confiscate the drug and give you a warning rather than dragging you down the cop shop".
Mr Chapman criticised the Government's decision not to reclassify cannabis, accusing ministers of having "ducked out".
Instead, the Government plans to spend just £230,000 educating people on information materials about cannabis, he said.
This is roughly what a large school would spend on computer equipment in one year, he added. "Such is the price of cowardice."
Mr Chapman warned that alcohol abuse was "the single greatest threat to the morale of the nation. Those of us who work with young people know that alcohol abuse leads in many cases to a loss of direction, even to ruin," he said.
"How does making alcohol freely available 24 hours a day fit into anything that could meaningfully be described as a public health strategy?"