Teenagers Drinking

Teenagers suspended from school for drinking

CHILDREN as young as 14 are being suspended from school in Strabane for drinking and taking drugs, new statistics show.

Figures unearthed through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in the last two years three young people across the district have been sent home from school due to alcohol misuse. The Western Education and Library Board statistics also reveal that over the last 12 months a pupil was suspended for a number of weeks for misusing drugs.

The figures came to light two months after the PSNI expressed serious concerns about the use of legal highs in local schools. At a meeting of the Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership, PSNI constable Alan McGonagle revealed that ‘Magic Dragon’ was discovered on school premises, prompting teachers to alert police.

Meanwhile in March three teenagers had to be taken to hospital for the effects of alcohol following a mass St Patrick’s Day drinking binge at the local golf course.

Dessie Kyle is manager with north west drugs and alcohol charity, HURT. He said the figures, particularly around the use of legal highs, came as no surprise.

Mr Kyle said in terms of alcohol abuse, they were encountering people even younger than 14.

“I’m not surprised and we would come across this sort of thing at an even younger age,” Mr Kyle said.

“We work with a mixture of age groups and we are seeing the numbers increasing month on month.

“What that does is suggest that more could be done but in fairness to everyone involved, including the schools, they know the problems that exist and are encouraging greater awareness of the dangers.

“The problem is though that there is so much temptation out there and young people are feeling more under pressure all the time.”

Mr Kyle’s comments come days after the PSNI seized alcohol from a group of young people drinking at ‘The Meadows’. During a search of a young female they found what officers described as “an empty packet of a new pyscho-active substance called Exodus”.

Dessie Kyle said legal highs were a major issue across the north west but said he was pleased with the approach being taken by the PSNI to the problem.

“I think the PSNI are dealing with it quite well by not putting handcuffs on anyone they find with legal highs but rather offering support and making them aware of the risks.

“But we still have to acknowledge that people are dabbling in these legal highs and are having serious psychotic episodes afterwards,” Mr Kyle added.

(L-R) Cllr Thomas Kerrigan (PCSP chair), Dessie Kyle (HURT), Ann-Marie McCourt (DIVERT), Constable Alan McGonagle (PSNI) and Andy Patton (PCSP vice chair).

PCSP Launches Drug Awareness Campaign

STRABANE Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) has launched an advertising campaign highlighting that taking drugs just once, can kill.

This campaign comes on the back of recent reports that drugs usage, especially among young people, has become much more socially acceptable than ever before.

The latest meeting of the PCSP in Strabane heard how legal high packaging had been found in a local school. It has since been claimed that children as young as 14 are using the drugs.

It was also reported at the meeting that but for the intervention of drug and alcohol awareness bodies, Strabane would have witnessed an increase in the number of young people taking their own lives due to drug addictions.

Chairman of Strabane PCSP, Thomas Kerrigan stated, “People throughout the Strabane District Council area are gravely concerned about how acceptable it has become for people to use recreational drugs. Time and time again, we are being told that the peer pressure among young people is leading to many young people dabbling in drugs. The mis-conception is that because everyone else is doing it, that somehow there’s no harm. Strabane PCSP wants to highlight that the first time you use drugs could be your last and could result in death.”

He added “Agencies such as HURT, DIVERT and PSNI recently gave presentations to Strabane PCSP on the availability of drugs in our district and what they have said is frightening. I urge all young people to think twice before they use illegal substances, as you have no way of knowing the long-term harm it can have on you, your friends and your family.”

Councillor Kerrigan was speaking after the public meeting of Strabane PCSP, which was themed around the issue of drugs.