Teachers ‘hid in toilet cubicles’ in bid to catch vaping students
A student from Westlake Boys High School wrote to Stuff on behalf of his peers saying they had been made to feel uncomfortable by teachers “hiding in toilet cubicles”.
He said the bathroom block which teachers had been staking out had become deserted because students did not want to use it.
The student acknowledged that as a result of teachers monitoring the toilets, the vaping had stopped, but he felt it was an unwarranted intrusion.
He said cameras outside the bathroom entrances would be able to show whether students were spending a long time in the toilets or repeatedly accessing them to vape.
Stuff has not named the boy or his peers at the request of his parents, who were worried drawing attention to the issue could result in expulsion from the North Shore school.
When approached, Westlake Boys’ headmaster David Ferguson said teachers did not use student toilets.
He said that while teachers did “occasionally monitor” bathrooms to deter vaping, it was “misleading and inaccurate” to suggest they hid in the toilet.
However, when pressed, Ferguson acknowledged that there were two occasions some months ago when teachers waited in the toilet at lunchtime in anticipation of catching students vaping.
“We did this after being given some specific information, and we were concerned. We had never done it before and we haven’t done it since.
“These were one-offs, therefore we don’t have a policy on it, and we don’t consider it something we would do ordinarily,” Ferguson said.
He said vaping among adolescents was an issue and teachers were doing their best to protect students from a “societal problem”.
“We only do this to try to keep the school and toilets safe for all of our boys and because we don’t want the boys vaping at school.”
According to the government’s most recent national health survey, a third of young people aged 15 to 17 had tried vaping and 6% vaped every day.
YouthLaw Aotearoa general manager Neil Shaw said schools were obligated by law to ensure they provided a “physically and emotionally safe place for all students”.
He acknowledged that vaping was a problem among youth but said schools had to balance obligations to prevent vaping against “unreasonable intrusion”.
“Waiting in a bathroom to catch offenders would be ill-advised, and any schools considering actions of this kind should first seek advice from the New Zealand School Trustees Association.”
He said privacy laws also prohibited organisations, including schools, from intruding to an unreasonable extent upon the personal affairs of an individual in an effort to collect information about them.
“There could be an argument that having a teacher stake out the bathroom intrudes to an unreasonable extent.”
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