The BBC website this morning has reported on the new powers given to schools that allow them to search students for knives. This may seem sensible, but the small print is not quite so reassuring.
At present, only the police have the power to search pupils but the new guidelines state that "trained staff" will be able to carry out searches. One wonders exactly how you can train a unarmed, unprotected teacher to confront a student who knows they are about to get caught in possession of an illegal weapon. And what if they find something other than a knife? Surely there is significant potential for abusing these powers in search of illegal drugs? The guidelines are that there must be "reasonable" suspicion that a pupil is carrying a weapon, which gives schools a completely free reign on who they search, and why – or am I being overly cynical?
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was quoted as saying "I think parents will welcome the clear message that bringing a weapon into school is a criminal offence". Call me optimistic, but I hoped that they knew this already.
Giving teachers the power to search pupils for concealed weapons will do nothing other than place teachers in dangerous situations when faced with a dangerous pupil. Discuss.