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By Nanette Woonton

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (April 21, 2001 - Cook Islands Herald/PINA Nius Online)---Drug dealers preying on young schoolchildren on school grounds was once little more than a movie plot. But it now appears to be happening right here in our own Cook Islands backyard.

The police have reported that secondary school students have been discovered in possession of cannabis while on school grounds.

Police Commissioner Pira Wichman also confirmed that there have been allegations made that students as young as Form One and Two have been in possession of cannabis while at school.

"They are young people and we find it very disturbing that young children are suspected of bringing drugs to school," said Wichman.

"Some of the information we have received has come from school friends, parents and neighbors. We are grateful that these people are finally coming forward so we can do something about it."

Wichman said that experiences in New Zealand and Australia show that schools are a sounding board for future drug use.

"Young, impressionable school students guarantee that drug dealers have confirmed clients and it is always a concern that this is beginning here now," he said.

Wichman hopes the allegations of Form One and Two students being seen taking drugs to school prove false.

"Although it is unconfirmed, it is a real fear," he said.

The consequences for being caught with drugs are dire, the police commissioner pointed out.

"Not only is there the threat of being expelled from school but also there is the threat of conviction," he said.

A drug conviction will follow you the rest of your life, he said. "This will follow you everywhere and with everything that you apply for, be it to reside in another country or a new job."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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