Drugs inquiry school denies a Spanish Inquisition'

PUBLISHED: 12:41 09 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:33 04 May 2010

AN angry parent has condemned a probe into drug use at King s School, Ely - which resulted in the expulsion of five pupils this week - likening heavy-handed treatment of students to the Spanish Inquisition . But the private school has dismissed allegatio

AN angry parent has condemned a probe into drug use at King's School, Ely - which resulted in the expulsion of five pupils this week - likening heavy-handed treatment of students to "the Spanish Inquisition".

But the private school has dismissed allegations of bullying and intimidation tactics, saying that a fully-trained child protection officer led the investigation into cannabis use on school premises, and stressed the need for tough action on drug abuse.

A concerned parent - who wishes to remain anonymous -contacted the Ely Standard this week, saying she was "horrified" to hear that 20 pupils aged between 13 and 16 were subjected to long periods of intense interviewing after pupils were found with cannabis at a school disco last Thursday.

The drugs were confiscated and destroyed in consultation with the police while the five pupils who brought the drug into the school have been permanently excluded. Three more, who admitted bringing cannabis onto school premises in the past, were suspended.

Our caller, however, has said that the methods employed by the school were "heavy-handed" and that she was shocked that parents were neither consulted or informed about the investigations.

"Whilst I don't condone drug-taking, the heads of the school have completely over-reacted to the situation - they are not dealing with hardened drug-pushers here, but merely a handful of kids."

She also said that children were made to sign statements written by school masters, not themselves, admitting guilt, or implicating others.

King's School head, Sue Freestone, has refuted the claims and says she has received overwhelming support from parents for her handling of the incident..

"The investigation was led by my deputy who is the senior school's child protection officer and fully trained for that role," she said.

"All pupils were interviewed by senior staff with an independent witness; in some cases notes were taken by the attending member of staff- these were read back to the pupil and signed by the pupil. In response to a letter sent out to all parents, the King's School has received numerous responses unanimous in their support for the action taken by the school."

She said the pupils that had been excluded had submitted their own, hand-written statements, and that those interviewed were collected by family members and were given refreshments while they waited.

In a letter to parents earlier in the week, Mrs Freestone said: "The school's policy on drug abuse is clear and the consequences for those concerned are very serious.

"It is of paramount importance, however, that other members of the school, particularly younger, more impressionable pupils, be protected and allowed to enjoy their education on a safe, secure environment."

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What are your thoughts on the King's School's stance on drugs. Write to: The Editor, Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely CB7 4LS or e-mail:

debbie.davies@archant.co.uk

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