LCQ16: Government attaches great importance to tackling drug abuse problem in schools

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, (in the absence of Secretary for Security) to a question by the Hon Starry Lee Wai-king in the Legislative Council today (March 18):


     It has been reported that the findings of a survey conducted by two agencies which are specialised in helping students rehabilitate from drug addiction reveal that in almost a quarter of the 500 secondary schools in Hong Kong, there are students who have used drugs.  In addition to those admitting mainly Band Three students, the schools involved include prestigious Anglo-Chinese secondary schools and girls' schools.  There are also students who used and trafficked drugs in schools.  The aforesaid are merely data of confirmed drug abusers, and it is believed that there are many more abusers who have not been exposed.  Moreover, according to the data up to the end of 2007 from the Central Registry of Drug Abuse of the Narcotics Division, the number of reported abusers aged below 21 had continued to rise for four consecutive years.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of the following in each of the past three years:

(a) the total number of cases of abusing and using drugs by students in schools handled by the Police; and whether it knows the number of such cases handled by social welfare organisations;

(b) the respective numbers of students who were prosecuted and convicted for drug trafficking in schools, and the penalty imposed on the convicted students; and

(c) the Government's total expenditure on tackling drug abuse problems in schools, together with a breakdown of the figure?



(a) The number of cases of drug abuse by students in schools handled by the Police and the number of students involved in the past three years are as follows:
                   2006    2007    2008
                   ----    ----    ----
cases reported       4     18       15
students involved   14     37       24

     The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has not kept statistics on the number of cases of drug abuse by students in schools handled by social welfare organisations.

(b) The number of students who were prosecuted and convicted for drug trafficking in schools in the past three years is as follows:

                    2006   2007   2008
                    ----   ----   ----
cases reported        4      7     6
students prosecuted   2     10     1
students convicted    1      8     1

     The sentences in general are probation order, and detention order enforced by the Correctional Services Department.

(c) The Administration has attached great importance to tackling the drug abuse problem in schools. Our anti-drug efforts include three areas, namely preventive education, law enforcement, and treatment and rehabilitation.

     On preventive education, the Education Bureau (EDB) has incorporated anti-drug elements in both the school curriculum and other learning activities.  It has also organised anti-drug seminars for teachers with the Narcotics Division (ND) from time to time.  ND and SWD have also arranged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide drug education talks and activities for primary, secondary and international schools.  The Hong Kong Jockey Club Drug InfoCentre of ND at Admiralty received a total of some 40,000 students and disseminated anti-drug messages to them in the past three years.

     To foster the healthy growth and development of the youth, the Student Health Service of the Department of Health (DH), including the Adolescent Health Programme, benefits students of about 710 primary and secondary schools.  Besides, starting from the 2005-06 school year, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has provided $750 million funding to implement "Positive Adolescent Training through Holistic Social Programmes to Adulthood: A Jockey Club Youth Enhancement Scheme" in secondary schools.  The scheme, jointly organised by EDB, SWD and five universities, aims to provide comprehensive training programmes for junior secondary students to promote their positive values.  The topics include enhancing their resilience against adversities and ability to develop a sense of right and wrong.  The above services and programmes are all aimed to facilitate the healthy development of the youth, thus helping them resist the temptation of drugs and other undesirable behaviours.

     On law enforcement, the Police School Liaison Programme of the Hong Kong Police Force plays an important role in the coordination among the Police, teachers, school social workers, school management and the community, and provides a platform to support anti-drug and fight crime efforts in schools.  Crime prevention is one of the important areas of work.  Dedicated police school liaison officers organise anti-drug and fight crime seminars in schools from time to time in collaboration with schools, SWD, EDB and NGOs.  On crime detection and investigation, police districts and the Narcotics Bureau are committed to combating drug activities on campus or those involving students.  They also work closely with police school liaison officers to deal with drug cases in schools and enhance communications with EDB, schools, teachers, social workers and parents to nip the problem in the bud.

     On treatment and rehabilitation, school staff and school social workers collaborate with Counselling Centres for Psychotropic Substance Abusers, district youth outreaching social work teams, and overnight outreaching teams for young night drifters to identify at-risk students and provide comprehensive counselling services, including referrals for appropriate treatment and rehabilitation services.  EDB has also prepared guidelines for schools to handle cases involving drug abuse.

     To combat the youth drug abuse problem, the inter-departmental Task Force led by the Secretary for Justice set out holistic and sustainable strategies in its report released in November last year.  In respect of strengthening preventive programmes in schools, EDB, ND, the Police, DH, SWD and other departments concerned are gearing up efforts in following four areas:

(a) promote all schools to develop a school-based healthy school policy with an anti-drug element, having regard to the development needs of students, to foster an amicable learning environment;

(b) strengthen preventive education programmes and measures for students.  Measures include reviewing and updating the school curriculum and arrangements for Other Learning Experiences, as well as providing more systematic anti-drug programmes for students of primary four and above;

(c) strengthen the support for schools.  Starting from the 2008-09 school year, we provide professional training to teachers to equip them with anti-drug knowledge.  These include half-day on-site programmes for class and subject teachers, and two-day advanced programmes for guidance and discipline teachers, school social workers and key school personnel with disbursement of teaching relief grant.  We are developing anti-drug resource kits for schools and will organise relevant training and seminars.  To enhance home-school cooperation in the anti-drug cause, we are developing a resource kit for parents to help schools and parent-teacher associations plan and implement anti-drug programmes for parents.  On the other hand, the Police School Liaison Programme is being strengthened to enhance the coordination among the Police, schools, social workers and the community; and

(d) assist schools in the early identification of and provision of assistance to at-risk students, including timely referral and follow up of drug-related cases.  In consultation with relevant stakeholders, EDB, ND, SWD, the Police and other relevant departments are working to revise relevant guidelines and protocols, with a view to building a good network of support and referral for students and taking timely and effective follow-up actions.

     The abuse of popular psychotropic substances is hidden in nature.  This includes the ease of consumption, lack of clear symptoms of addiction, and the prevalence of drug abuse at home, which together further complicate the drug abuse problems.  We need to identify early hidden youth abusing drugs and help them receive treatment and rehabilitation services; we also need to let them know that drug abuse can be discovered and drugs are not to be experimented with.  We should therefore study mandatory and voluntary drug testing schemes.

     Regarding the proposal for empowering law enforcement officers to require persons who are reasonably suspected of abusing drugs to receive a drug test, ND will work out a specific proposal striking a balance among aspects such as human rights, privacy and youth protection, and initiate a public consultation exercise later this year.

     On the proposal for voluntary school-based drug testing, ND plans to commission experts to conduct a research study this year, covering the following areas:

* First, conduct in-depth research on the experiences and details regarding the implementation of voluntary school-based drug testing in schools overseas and international schools in Hong Kong.

* Second, study pertinent issues requiring attention and ways to address such issues if voluntary school-based drug testing is to be implemented in local schools, including privacy, possible stigmatisation, costs of the scheme, and support and referral services required.

* Third, consult local schools, the education sector, the social welfare sector, and other stakeholders with a view to gauging their concerns and requests.

* Lastly, recommend one or more concrete, feasible schemes, covering relevant aspects such as arrangements, procedures, resources, support measures, etc.

     We hope to work with a number of representative schools in Hong Kong to run a pilot project in 2010 following the recommended scheme(s).  Having regard to practical operational experiences, we will refine and promote the scheme(s) for general adoption by local schools.

     To implement the above new initiatives, the Administration has allocated additional resources since the 2008-09 financial year for setting up a dedicated anti-drug education team in EDB to take forward and coordinate the work, offering professional training for teachers, disbursing teaching relief grant, enhancing drug education, and adding 27 posts of police school liaison officers.

     For the work above, the expenditure of major items that involved anti-drug efforts in schools in the past three years is as follows ($ million):

                         2006-07  2007-08  2008-09
                         -------  -------  -------
Anti-drug talks and
activities for students   6.5       6.5     7.3

Anti-drug work
supporting schools and
teachers, including
professional training     0.9       1.1     2.3

Student Health Service
(part related to
anti-drug work)           0.3       1.6     2.1

Police School Liaison
Programme                 16.4      16.4    19.4

School social work
service                   198.5     209.6    227.5

Total                     222.6     235.2    258.6

     The production of the anti-drug resource kits for schools and parents and the implementation of related training programmes were supported by the Beat Drugs Fund with a total provision of about $2.9 million. We also plan to make use of the Beat Drugs Fund to support the research study on voluntary school-based drug testing.

     The other programmes involving anti-drug efforts on campus are integral parts of wider areas of work of various bureaux and departments in education and general anti-drug work. Examples include the curriculum development, guidance and discipline services, and work of the Regional Education Offices of EDB; the outreaching social work teams as well as drug treatment and rehabilitation services subvented by SWD; crime detection and investigation work of the Police; etc.  We have not kept separate records on the breakdown of the expenditure with specific regard to anti-drug efforts in schools.

Ends/Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Issued at HKT 17:15