Police stop and search Chesterfield schoolkids over cigarettes concerns
Five pupils at Whittington Green school were subject to police searches this morning, which one mother said she was shocked to discover as her child returned home.
And while some have called the move to quash smoking at the school an over-reaction, the county council has stated that issues with pupils smoking have persisted, so a police visit was warranted.
Derbyshire police confirmed the school requested a visit and seized cigarettes from pupils.
Officers said: "We can confirm that we were invited into Whittington Green School this morning to address concerns of the headteacher.
"Five children had cigarettes seized from them and were given advice. All five admitted they either smoked or had been in the company of smokers.
"It is illegal for under 16s to be in possession of tobacco and pupils are not allowed to bring cigarettes into school.
"Officers regularly go into schools to speak to pupils and work closely with staff to tackle problems within their premises."
Whittington Green School Headteacher Tracey Burnside said: "We have an ongoing problem with smoking at the school among the same small group of pupils which detentions were not addressing.
"We have a good working relationship with our local police who often host assemblies and talk about problems like bullying so it was not unusual for them to come in and help us deal with this issue.
"Five pupils had cigarettes and handed them over to the police officers voluntarily and no pupil was singled out. They were given a talk about the damage cigarettes cause and reminded that it is illegal for under 16s to possess tobacco - messages that are supported in our wider curriculum."
But a mother of one of the pupils told the Derbyshire Times in an email of her 'sheer disgust' after the 'irresponsible' search.
She said: "My son went into school as normal this morning, got there and got confronted by police and staff, then taken into a room and searched by police."
"This is unacceptable. Not because they thought my son was carrying anything illegal, eg. drugs or sharp objects, but no the reason my son was searched and made to feel intimidated, humiliated and as tho he had done something really wrong, is because he's got caught smoking in the past."
"I think the staff and police have acted irresponsible."
"The school has gone about this is totally disgusting.
"If police can do this and go out to 15/16-year-olds for something so minor, then why does it take them days, weeks ,months to go out to people that really need them?
"I feel my son has been victimisated (sic) for no reason."
The Department for Education's 'Searching, Screening and Confiscation' guidelines state that headteachers have statutory powers to search without consent for items such as knives and drugs, which includes tobacco.