Plan for Perth school to search students’ bags for junk food

Lockridge Senior High School plans to check students’ bags for junk food.The Education Department has dismissed claims that a Perth high school plans to search and confiscate junk food from students’ bags, calling it a “misunderstanding.”
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Parents of children attending Lockridge Senior High School reacted angrily, including with threats of violence, to a plan to confiscate what it classifies as junk food brought from home.

Responses on the college’s Facebook page to a memorandum that is believed to be circulating about the college’s proposal to confiscate any junk food a student brings onto the school premises has attracted criticism, support and threats of violence.

One post read: “Well teachers, I say unto you, if you perform an illegal search on my child’s bag without my consent or remove anything I have paid for I will have you charged. Failing that I will kick in your classroom door mid lesson and cave in your face.”

However the Education Department’s Executive Director of Statewide Services, Lindsay Hale, said that he believed that the issue of a bag search was the result of a misunderstanding.

He told Radio 6PR a draft document had been circulated among the school community and staff regarding a letter that was proposed to be sent to parents.

The draft concerned the schools healthy food and health eating habits commitment. A number of issues were canvassed including the potential for confiscation of certain items.

“A bag search was not part of this discussion,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Western Australian Council of State School Organisations’ Kylie Catto said principals were ultimately responsible for implementing the Department of Education’s healthy food and drinks policy.

“The policy to my knowledge does not extend to students bringing in food from home,” Ms Catto said.

“I’m not sure a government department can make that decision – I understand why – but I’m not sure they can make a rule to a parent about what you may or may not bring onto a school site.

“They can about what is provided on a school site, fair enough … but it doesn’t extend to the bringing of birthday cake when a student has a birthday or parents evenings where there may be a sausage sizzle provided … so you can’t pick and choose where the policy is going to apply.”

Ms Catto said a holistic approach to child health was needed.

“Rather than any school deciding to confiscate food, how about we all, parents included, how about we participate in education, there’s some fantastic programs out there,” she suggested.

“What’s going to happen? A school is going to take food from a student’s bag? Are they going to provide an alternative or will the students starve through the day? I don’t know.

“As a parent and as an organisation we believe a school needs to be a safe place to learn and for staff work, so if there is a threat to life, if they believe a true threat, I believe there are systems in place so schools can work with police

“But for a bag [of chips]? I don’t know that that’s going [to force] a school closure, if there’s a bag of chips in a school bag.

“Child health and nutrition and obesity are huge issues and let’s not pretend it’s not … this is not the first we’ve heard of a school reportedly going down that line.”

Mr Hale said that it would appear that somebody had misunderstood that the correspondence was simply a draft.

“The only time a bag search might be deemed appropriate would be if there was a high degree of suspicion of drugs or a weapon – not a bar of chocolate,” he said. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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