Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jul 2002
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Jim Todd, The Daily Independent


RUSSELL - Drug dog searches will be carried out in the Russell Independent 
School District again this year as a proactive measure for keeping drugs 
out of the schools.

As many as 24 random visits will be made to all schools and district 
facilities throughout the school year by the dogs and their handlers from 
Interquest Detection Canines of Mainville, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.

"It is the board's position that we be proactive for our young people," 
said Superintendent Ronnie Back. "If we can help them make a choice not to 
bring these things to school or be under the influence during the school 
day, we will have done our part in helping our young people grow."

The district used the dogs initially last year when 24 random searches were 
made of schools and school property. The only illegal drug discovered was a 
partial marijuana joint in a student's purse.

That student was suspended from school for five days and the case was 
turned over to police.

The fact that drugs were found on only one occasion is encouraging, Back said.

"The board's intention is to help the students in their growth and 
development," he said. "It is not intended for entrapment. We hope we never 
find any evidence of someone using illegal substances. However, if it is 
here, we're going to deal with it and the young person doing it."

Sean Howard, Russell High School principal, calls the board's stance a 
positive one that helps raise awareness among students and their families.

"I think you would be doing a real disservice to yourself and others if you 
deny the fact of the potential for (drugs) to be in your schools," Howard 
said. "You certainly hope it is not.

"I think the program is a deterrent," he said. "If students know there is a 
likelihood of random searches, they are going to be less likely to put 
themselves in a position to embarrass themselves and their families."

Back said it is the responsibility of school officials to help make school 
buildings conducive for learning and as safe and orderly places where 
parents and guardians feel comfortable sending their children.

The program, which costs $12,000 a year, is paid out of the district's 
general fund.

"The community has been very supportive overall," Back said. "And students 
have been complimentary and have shared with us that it is making a 
difference and may give someone another incentive to say 'no.'

"We don't know exactly how much good this has done, actually," Back said. 
"If it has saved one student from making a poor decision about drugs, it is 
well worth the money. This is the way some young people die."

Gene Papet, owner of the canine service, said many school officials across 
the country don't believe their schools have drug problems, but that he 
sees a "different side of the coin."

He called Russell's approach "forward-thinking."

Back said Papet has told him that most school districts that use the 
service don't contact the firm until they have suffered some type of 
tragedy. The closest school district in Kentucky to use the firm is Bath 

The dogs are trained to sniff out any types of drugs or tobacco - and do.

Last year in Russell schools and parking lots, the dogs - trained to sit 
when they are alerted to something - found Tylenol, aspirin, two cigars, 
potassium tablets and prescription asthma medication, among other legal 
items, Back said.

"The dogs, usually Labrador retrievers, are very well-trained, well-behaved 
and impressive, Back said. "The students enjoy them and are allowed to pet 
them and the dogs just love it."

The dogs will be used to search the four schools in the district as well as 
the central office, bus garage, maintenance building, vocational school, 
football fieldhouse and parking lots.

The service also provides school pennants showing a toll-free safe school 
telephone tip line so anyone can call to report about drugs, gangs, 
threats, violence, guns or any other safety concerns.

Russell also does random drug tests of athletes, students who drive to 
school and volunteers.
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