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.