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North teachers unite to warn of surge in school drug use

Tain Royal Academy.
Tain Royal Academy.

A hard-hitting warning has been issued by the heads of five Highland high schools over a hike in drug-taking, drinking and anti-social behaviour by pupils – claiming it is “more prevalent than previously known”.

The letter – from Fortrose, Dingwall, Alness, Invergordon and Tain academies, and supported by  the police – states they need to tackle the issue with the support of parents and carers, as well as the pupils themselves.

Local politicians have welcomed the move to bring parents in for a meeting in a bid to combat the situation.

The letter says: “Pupils, parents and carers need to be aware that young people are using and supplying harmful substances across our communities and seem to believe that such activity is ‘normal’ for them and others.

“Controlled substances previously believed to not have been a significant issue for young people in many areas in Highland are now readily available.

“It is possible for young people, to access a wide variety of substances and these can include (but not exclusively) cannabis, psycho-active substances (‘legal highs’) and prescription drugs.

“These can be obtained from local contacts, wider contacts through social media and can be purchased on-line in some cases.”

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It adds: “The incidence of reports regarding anti-social behaviour is also increasing.  Reports are of open air drunkenness and associated verbal abuse, mess and danger to the public from broken glass and other waste being left behind in parks, on beaches and in other public amenity spaces; of verbal abuse and intimidation of members of the public.

“Often vulnerable young people and adults being the victims of such abuse; of purchase, selling and use of a range of substances which can then impact on further anti-social behaviours and also irresponsible behaviour on and near roads.”

A parent information evening meeting will be held at Dingwall Academy next month.

North MSP Kate Forbes said: “I commend the head teachers at these high schools for doing everything they can to support young people in the Highlands and encourage them to make good choices.

“It is also important that it is a joint initiative with Police Scotland because any suggestion of substance abuse, accessible drugs and public drunkenness are matters of grave concern.

“This letter acts as a wake-up call to some of the young people who are actively involved in this behaviour or are at risk of getting involved.

“This kind of behaviour is highly unsafe for school-aged young people, but clearly also can have an impact on the generation public.

Dingwall and Seaforth Councillor Graham MacKenzie, a former rector of Dingwall Academy himself, said: “This is a very positive, pro-active move to deal with this growing problem head on, and has to be very much welcomed.

“We have been seeing an increase in anti-social behaviour among teenagers, which is linked to drugs and alcohol.”

The letter continued: “Mid-Highland schools’ headteachers and Police Scotland are writing to you to inform and reassure you that we are working together to ensure our young people, schools and communities remain safe.

“We have noted increases in the volume of information shared regarding drug and alcohol activity, and in anti-social behaviour in the Mid-Highland Area and around our communities.

“Together, we are sharing information to support pupil/parental awareness and knowledge of these behaviours and concerns, thereby taking action to prevent potential harm in our communities.

“The risks do seem to be more prevalent than previously known with increased risk-taking behaviour among a greater proportion of young people and at earlier ages.”