Pubdate: Wed, 07 Apr 2004
Source: Paris Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Paris Star
Author: Beth Gurney
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Two Students Given Suspensions for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

The normally boisterous and busy hallways of Paris District High School 
fell silent for about an hour last Wednesday morning. Students and staff 
were confined to classrooms as police officers and four sniffing dogs 
scoured the halls, searching the school for drugs. The lockdown was put 
into effect at roughly 10:30a.m. When the lockdown order was lifted two 
students were facing two-day suspensions.

The students in question are both male, and both 16 years of age. One was 
discovered to have a small amount of marijuana in his possession. Both were 
found with drug paraphernalia. Neither student is facing charges, and OPP 
spokesperson Mark Foster described the quantity of drugs found on the first 
student as "very small."

The lockdown and drug sweep was in planning for about one month. Principal 
Gerry Watts explained that this coordinated effort between the local 
Ontario Provincial Police and the school administration takes place one or 
two times a year. Prior to last week's search, only one other search in the 
last five years netted drugs. That student was suspended.

During the search three police dogs scour the halls sniffing for drugs. The 
dogs can be aggressive, which is why the lockdown is employed. A fourth, 
'passive' dog is taken through classrooms at random, and notifies its 
handler when it smells what may be marijuana.

Watts says the school's policy on drugs is a strict one. "If they even 
smell of it (drugs) it is inappropriate for them to be here," he explained. 
Students who smell of marijuana are automatically given a two-day 
suspension, which stays on their school record.

"We have really good kids at this school," Watts said. "There's no doubt 
about it., but we have to look at the greater good."

Watts says that the search and lockdown procedure has not met with a lot of 
backlash from parents or pupils. In fact, the principal reports having 
received positive feedback, even from the one student who prior to last 
week's raid had the distinction of being the only person ever "outed" 
through these random searches.

"It's one of the unfortunate things we have to do in this society," Watts 
said in defense of the procedure. "As a parent I would want the school to 
be safe and free from any illicit drugs."

Following the search students discussed the issue of drugs and the recent 
search in the hallways. Jessica Sivyer's Grade 10 English class was among 
those visited by the passive dog. "They came in, walked around...nothing 
really happened," she recounted.

Rachel Segin was in Grade 9 French when the search took place. She said she 
was not bothered by the search. Among her friends there was a consensus 
that drugs are not a big problem across the board at at PDHS.

"With some groups of people it's pretty bad," she remarked.
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