POLICE are taking sniffer dogs into schools in Taunton to ensure they remain drug-free.

The Castle School head teacher Sarah Watson has written to parents informing them officers will carry out "random and unannounced searches" of the campus.

Parents have also been sent letters from Taunton Academy, where sniffer dogs have already been, and Richard Huish College.

The move comes after two people in Taunton died earlier this month following unconnected drugs incidents.

However, Mrs Watson stressed that neither was connected with The Castle.

In a letter to parents, she said: "We will not tolerate drugs at The Castle School and have contacted the police to support us with random and unannounced searches and visits with passive alert detection dogs (sniffer dogs) to ensure that our school remains a drug-free zone.

"Any student who brings drugs into school will face permanent exclusion.

"This is so that our children are safe in school from drugs, from criminals and from exploitation by criminals."

Mrs Watson added that although some parents may view the reaction as "extreme", drugs are being offered to young people in Taunton on a regular basis.

She said: "The police have told us that young people from across Taunton are being offered drugs with alarming frequency with a high risk of permanent damage and death.

"Often the contents of pills or tablets sold to our young people are unknown and can contain MDMA (Mandy), ketamine, heroin and crack cocaine.

"Cocaine is not only instantly addictive but users of crack cocaine need increasingly high doses in order to reach the high they crave.

"Ketamine is being mixed with heroin and crack cocaine and sold for very little money in some parts of Taunton."

Mrs Watson urged parents to protect their children over the summer holidays about staying safe and to talk to them about the dangers of drugs.

She said: "You may have heard of 'county lines' in the national media, which describes how London drug gangs coerce and lure children and young poeple to carry and sell drugs for them in market towns such as ours.

"Once the drug traffickers have young people in their supply chain, they will try to force them, coerce and encourage young people to sell drugs to their friends or in school."

Mrs Watson told the County Gazette: "We're really keen to reassure parents that our school is absolutely safe for children and that we will always do every single thing we can to make sure that our school remains absoutely drug free."

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Jenny Veal, head teacher at Taunton Academy has written to parents warning that young people in the town are "engaging in risk taking behaviour", often due to boredom or experimentation.

She said: "Of particular concern in Somerset is substance abuse and interaction with strangers.

"Often social media increases these risks and exacerbates issues, making drugs easier to obtain and exposing children to the risk of child sexual exploitation."

She added that the school often liaises with police.

"Information we have received suggests that young people from across Taunton are being offered drugs, particularly pills," said Mrs Veal.

"The contents of the tablets are unknown and can contain MDMA (Mandy), ketamine and even heroin.

"The effects of these substances can be potentially life threatening on a physical level, both in the short and long term, as no-one can predict the future effects of these substances on the body and mind.

"It can also make individuals susceptible to further danger of exploitation due to increased levels of vulnerability."

Mrs Veal said: "In the interests of keeping everyone safe, I would also encourage your child to speak to us if they have concerns about behaviour they have witnessed or which ultimately may cause harm to another person."

Richard Huish has declined to comment.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said the force is carrying out investigations into the deaths earlier this month of Reece Murphy, aged 16, and Mitchell Hole, 30, after they had taken drugs.

They want to discover how the two obtained the drugs that ended their lives in separate incidents.

Anyone with any information should call police on 101 and give reference number 5218143998.