Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland grammar school suspends schoolboy (14) for drug dealing

By Deborah McAleese

A 14-year-old pupil at a top Northern Ireland grammar has been suspended for distributing illegal drugs, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The Year 11 Bangor Grammar boy was suspended on Monday afternoon for passing cannabis to other pupils. Another two Year 11 pupils were also suspended for being in possession of the drug while in school uniform.

The PSNI was called to Bangor Grammar last week and was informed a student had been caught with the substance.

It is understood that officers have spoken to the teenager.

According to a police source, the officers are "attempting not to criminalise" the boy, because to his age.

"Officers are trying to educate him, not criminalise him. They are also working to try and establish where he obtained the drugs," the source added.

It is not known if the other two boys have been spoken to by officers.

In a statement, the PSNI said: "Police were called to the school to deal with an incident. Inquiries are ongoing."

Parents were informed on Monday night about the drugs by school principal Elizabeth Huddleson.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Ms Huddleson said: "As a school we have been proactive in dealing with this situation in line with school policy.

"All parents in the school community have been informed. As outlined in our recent parent email, the opportunity has been taken again to warn our pupils of the dangers of becoming involved with drugs and those persons associated with drug use.

"Advice and guidance has also been provided to all parents where they have concerns about their son.

"This is a societal issue affecting all schools. We will continue to work hard to educate and guide our pupils on the matter."

In her email to parents on Monday, Ms Huddleson said that "three Year 11 pupils have been suspended, two for being in possession of cannabis whilst in school uniform and one for distributing the drug".

She reassured parents that time was taken "to speak at length to the Year 11 group and once the examinations and work experience are complete, assemblies will be used next week to communicate with the rest of the school".

She added: "I will outline PSNI involvement to date and the consequences for individuals where drugs are brought into this school.

"I will stress to the boys that where they have concerns or are affected by any of these issues, they should speak to a trusted member of staff to allow the school to offer them necessary support."

Ms Huddleson told parents not to hesitate to contact her or other teachers if they have concerns about their son, "notice changes in behaviour, have concerns as to his whereabouts outside of school or you would simply appreciate some advice".

One concerned parent said she was alarmed by the news.

"School is a place where you imagine your children are safe, so this is very alarming. I was very shocked when I heard," she added.

"No doubt many other parents will be alarmed. Parents make so much effort to protect their children, but we can't be with them all day. It is very unsettling. But I am happy with how the school is handling this."

Green Party MLA for North Down, Steven Agnew, said the PSNI must go after those supplying the drugs.

"While it is right the principal has taken action, we need the police to investigate and go after the suppliers," he added.

"I am concerned that amounts of drugs have been provided to 14-year-olds.

"We need to remember that these young boys who have been suspended are just children and as a society we need to do more to protect our young people."

And DUP MLA Peter Weir said: "This is very worrying to see drugs within our school system.

"I welcome the proactive and open approach that the school has taken.

"I would have great faith in the school to deal with this."

The incident follows revelations by this newspaper two months ago that four Bangor schools had written to parents warning them that children as young as 11 were being targeted by drug dealers at a school bus stop.

At the end of November the head teachers at Bangor Grammar, Bangor Academy, Glenlola Collegiate and St Columbanus told parents that they had received reports some Year 8 pupils had recently been approached by older boys outside the town's bus station and on Dufferin Avenue.

It is understood that the older individuals, who were not in school uniform, were trying to sell drugs to the younger ones.

In the letter, the principals of the four schools described the incident as "worrying".

At the time the schools said there would be an increased police presence in the area in a bid to stop incidents like this happening again.

Belfast Telegraph


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