Is it ethical to expel children carrying drugs or alcohol to school?

Topics: Drug addiction, Ethics, Social contract Pages: 5 (1626 words) Published: May 25, 2014

Applied Ethics Assignment 1

Is it ethical to expel children carrying drugs or alcohol to school?

In this essay, I am going to discuss the case of 1000 New Zealand schoolchildren being excluded for offences involving drugs or alcohol. I intend to explore key ethical issues surrounding this case and hope to conclude whether expulsion for these offences is the best course of action or not. I will refer to Utilitarianism and the Social Contract Theory to determine whether exclusion of these children will benefit society, or not.

Last year, over “1000 schoolchildren were suspended, excluded or expelled from New Zealand schools last year for drugs or alcohol-related offences, with the youngest aged 8” (Stuff, 2013). The Ministry of Education released figures showing that one in ten children who had action taken against them in relation to substances in the year 2012, was under 12 years of age (Stuff, 2013). The Education Amendment Act has come under scrutiny as it prioritises the right to privacy of students. Effectively it means that schools would lose their authority to search and seize narcotics and conduct random drug tests. This, many educationalists argue, would worsen the problem.

The ethical issue that arises in this case amongst others is whether schools should continue to retain their search and seizure powers or should the privacy of the students be given priority as per the Education Amendment Bill. Another key issue that is begging resolution is the dilemma of whether or not, children found in possession of drugs and alcohol, should be expelled or excluded. Is expulsion of a child found in possession of narcotics in the best interests of society and the child in question? It is important to also mention that since most of the children procured the substances from a knowing or unknowing adult, should the adult be vicariously responsible for the child take responsibility and face the consequences instead of letting the child take the fall? Is it not the responsibility of the parent to ensure that children stay away from vices until they are old enough to judge for themselves? Due to the range of issues that arise in this case I will focus on the ethical issue of expulsion and attempt to provide some insight into whether or not it is the best course of action to employ.

Thomas Hobbes (1651) proposed the idea that “in order to flourish, we need a peaceful, cooperative social order” (Rachels & Rachels, 2010, p. 80). Hobbes goes on to say that if there were no institutions to enforce order, we would be free to do whatever we wanted. This would eventually lead to a state of perpetual chaos. He has called this state of chaos “the state of nature” and it’s opposite “civil state” (Rachels & Rachels, 2010). This means that in order to live harmoniously, we must abide by a set of rules that are accepted by everyone and applies to everyone equally. Hobbes was of the opinion that the four basic facts about human life were the reason for the existence of this social contract. He theorized firstly, that each of us requires the same basic things in order to survive, secondly, scarcity is omnipresent and we need to work hard to produce the things we need. Third on the list is the equality of human power (united we stand, divided we fall). Finally, there is limited altruism, which implies that we cannot assume that others will stand down when their interests conflict with ours.

Since we do not learn the accepted rules of society on our own, we have schoolteachers and parents who amongst other things teach us how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. School helps us learn to build and maintain relationships. Most importantly attending school empowers us with knowledge to survive in the real world. Take school out of the equation and that leaves just parents. Now consider the case of a young child who has gotten himself expelled for being curious about his parent’s secret drug stash. Unable to...

References: Banks, J. (2012, October 18). Education Amendment Bill - First Reading. New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from
Gulliver, A., & Shadwell, T. (2013, April 10). Child, 8, Caught with Drugs at School. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from
Ministry of Health. (2000, May 1). Report on Cross-Sectoral Outcome Measures and Targets. Children in New Zealand. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from
New Zealand Health Information Service. (n.d.). New Zealand Drug Statistics. Ministry of Health. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from$file/drugs-2001.pdf
Rachels, J., & Rachels, S. (2010). The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. (Original work published 1986)
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