Pubdate: Thu, 30 Sept 1999
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 1999 The Eagle-Tribune
Contact:  P.O. Box 100 Lawrence, MA 01842
Fax: (978) 687-6045
Author:  Chris Markuns, Eagle-Tribune Writer


Pelham [NH] - It was a typically calm morning as classes started in
Pelham High at 7:30 yesterday, but that only lasted about two hours.

The silence of second period was broken by the voice of Principal
Barry J. Connell, ordering all students to leave their bookbags and go
to the cafeteria at once.

"We all knew right away what was going on," said Sean P. Thyne, a
senior, who had been through the drill at least three times in the
last few years.

Twenty police officers and 10 drug-sniffing dogs descended on the
school yesterday.  The dogs scoured hallways and classrooms and
smelled bookbags and lockers, before heading out to the parking lot to
sniff around the cars.

No drugs were found during the three-hour search, Police Sgt. Gary
Fisher said.  The dogs did find a few illegal fireworks and some
marijuana residue.

Likewise, a cursory walk through Pelham Memorial School turned up
nothing more than a pack of cigarettes, said Sgt. Fisher, who helped
orchestrate the search.

"We're very pleased with the way it went," he said.  "We're not
interested in arresting anybody, the idea is to send a message across.
 Everybody is very, very pleased with it."

School officials agreed.

"It's a big part of the zero tolerance policy," Mr. Connell said. 
"You want to send the message that we're on alert for this, and it's
always good to find out they are heeding it."

School officials planned to talk to the parents of the students with
the contraband.

After returning to their classrooms, students peered out the school
windows to watch the dogs in the parking lot.  When a dog indicated a
car might hold drugs, police put an orange cone on top of it, then
called out the student driver.

Four cars were searched from front to back by the dogs and

"This was the first time we conducted a lot search," said acting
Police Chief Evan J. Haglund.  "They figured the cars were safe."

One girl received a stern warning from police for using air freshener
and as many as three types of cleaning solutions in her car, which
they believe was an attempt to mask the scent of marijuana.

Sgt. Fisher said it takes a lot more than that to fool dogs,
especially since each car was checked by at least two dogs.

"They can try (to disguise the scent)," Sgt. Fisher said, "They try
everything.  But the dogs don't need much.  It could just be a seed."

The dogs' noses are sensitive enough that three of them hit on a
locker where drugs had been found in past years.  None were found
there yesterday, however.

Mr. Thyne, the class vice president, and classmate Pamela L.
Ogonowski, the class president, both said the drug searches are a good

Mr. Thyne was glad to see the teacher's room was included in this
year's search.

"One thing I harped on last year was they they didn't search the
teacher's room," said Mr. Thyne, 17, son of Kevin F. and Sheree M.
Thyne.  "It's supposed to be a safe environment, and they have to
follow the same rules we do.  We don't know what they do in their free

Only Mr. Connell and Assistant Principal Dorothy A. Mohr were told
about the search beforehand.

The students' only other concern was the disruption.

"I know this is for a good cause, but we get in trouble for wearing a
tank top to class because it's a disruption, and we just missed 50
minutes of (second period) for this," said Mr. Thyne, who described
the time in the cafeteria as a "social hour."

The teacher of his next class did not teach.

"He said 'I know your attention is going to be outside'" Mr. Thyne
said, referring to the parking lot.  "Everyone was basically watching."

The bottom line, said Miss Ogonowski, 17, daughter of Michael S. and
Elizabeth L. Ogonowski, is the safety such searches provide.

"It's going to keep drugs out of the school," she said.  "It will
prevent future problems."

Police and dogs from Hudson, Nashua, Salem, Plaistow and Lowell,
Mass., police departments and the Essex and Middlesex county sheriff
departments in Massachusetts took part.
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