Pubdate: Sat, 28 Feb 2009
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2009 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Dana Wilson
Bookmark: (Drug Dogs)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


No-Cost Searches By Authorities Help Budget, Curb Abuse, Officials

Before police officers with drug-sniffing dogs scoured the halls at
Mount Vernon High School on Tuesday, students were given a five-minute
warning to come clean.

A few handed over prescription and over-the-counter medications hidden
in their backpacks or lockers.

The hourlong building sweep that followed netted no illegal drugs, but
that doesn't mean it wasn't a success, said detective Cpl. Matt Dailey
of the Mount Vernon Police Department, who helped organize the search.
"We want them to know that we're out there; we're watching."

For years, law-enforcement agencies statewide have conducted drug
searches at no cost to schools, and that partnership continues even as
many communities struggle to do more with less. Most view the service
as a crime-prevention tool worthy of the manpower and time.

"I think the bang for the buck is very good on the return," said Bob
Cornwell, director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association.

The State Highway Patrol's 18 K-9 units assisted with 25 drug sweeps
in Ohio schools last year, said Sgt. Darrin Blosser, a patrol
spokesman. K-9 handlers typically work those requests into their
weekly schedule, so it doesn't cost the state extra money or resources
to lend a hand. School officials say that random, unannounced drug
sweeps help them measure a school's safety and security. The exercise
also is designed to make students think twice, said Mount Vernon
Superintendent Steve Short.

Some school districts go a step further, and they require drug testing
for student athletes and those who participate in extracurricular
activities, said Chris Franz, director of accounts for Sport Safe
Testing Service in Powell. His business has contracts with several
central Ohio districts, including Canal Winchester, Groveport Madison,
Olentangy and Reynoldsburg.

Drug-testing programs are an expensive but effective deterrent, Franz

"Kids are more likely to stay clear of something if they know there's
going to be a consequence for it," Franz said.

Testing also can be controversial.

Dublin schools tested student athletes during the 2000-01 and 2001-02
school years. It stopped after being sued by the American Civil
Liberties Union on behalf of some parents who said the policy was
unconstitutional. The policy, and the lawsuit, later were dropped.

Glouster Police Capt. Lucas Mace, whose department led a drug search
this week at Trimble High School in Athens County, said he's seen
panicked students hand over cigarettes, medication or other items
usually banned from school.

"If there's a kid thinking about bringing it to school, it does deter
that," Mace said. "Of course, that works two ways. If they get by with
it, they might get brave."

The sweep at Trimble High on Wednesday led to the search of three
lockers, but it found no illegal drugs. Mace sees that as a success,
considering that heroin and other drugs are a problem in the area.

Three full-time officers, including the chief, led the search with aid
from officers and troopers from neighboring agencies.

Parents generally want to protect their kids and seem to support drug
sweeps, Mace said. "We haven't received any negative attitude about it

Schools that conduct drug searches risk public scrutiny, said Scott
Ebright, spokesman for the Ohio School Boards Association.

"Is it a positive? Is it a negative for the school district? That's a
tough call, and I think the districts are going to err on the side of
what's best for the students," Ebright said.
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