Pubdate: Fri, 16 Aug 2002
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2002 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Wayne Ford


Searches Will Take An Hour And Will Occur More Than Once During The Year

WATKINSVILLE -- The Oconee County School System will conduct an unspecified 
number of searches with drug dogs this year at the high school and both 
middle school campuses, officials announced Thursday.

A surprise search was conducted last year at Oconee County High School by a 
private South Carolina company, Raid Corps Inc., which has been contracted 
again this year for $5,000.  That search took four hours, but this year, 
the searches are expected to take about an hour and will occur more than 
once during the school year.

School Superintendent Shannon Adams declined to say how many times the 
schools will be searched, but he believes the measure will be a deterrent 
to anyone planning to take drugs or contraband onto campus.

"Parents in this community send their children to school every day with the 
expectation they won't be exposed to illegal drugs or encounter a weapon on 
campus. That's the main purpose -- to keep the schools as safe for kids and 
the staff members as we can,'' Adams said.

''Our hopes are we'll find nothing,'' said John Osborne, assistant 
superintendent for student services.

''There are many things considered contraband on school campuses that our 
kids utilize on a daily basis and that's why we've got to put the red alert 
out there.'' Items like pocketknives and ammunition -- even fireworks -- 
are not allowed on campus. Last year a lot of ammunition was found in 
vehicles, though none was found inside the school.

Osborne said many students hunt, but they need to know to check their 
vehicles and remove any such items before going to school.

Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry is involved in the process this year; 
last year, his office was not brought in.

School officials said that was a communications breakdown, as they told 
Raid Corps to come when they wanted without advance notice.

Berry said this year Raid Corps will notify him on the day of the search 
and he will give school administrators at least three minutes notice.

Local deputies will also accompany Raid Corps officers and the dogs. When 
the search begins, students undergo a ''lockdown,'' meaning they must stay 
in whatever classroom they happen to be in.

''While the search is conducted no one can come and go from the campus,'' 
Berry said. Oconee High Principal Mark Channell said all students have 
handbooks detailing what they cannot bring on campus.

In last year's search, three marijuana charges were made. Adams said some 
of the criticism from last year's search stemmed from the fact that it was 
a surprise.

This year, he said, students and parents know the searches will take place. 
Middle schools were added, according to Adams, because that is an age some 
students begin experimenting with drugs.

Students found with contraband like drugs and alcohol will be dealt with 
administratively by the school system, and by law enforcement, Berry said. 
Students with other items not allowed on campus will be handled by the 
school system.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens