Drug-sniffing dogs search middle school
Drug-sniffing dogs scoured Treasure Mountain International Middle School on Wednesday for the first time in the school’s history.
"There’s been enough concern that while we would like to keep kids away through education, we felt like we needed to step up our tactics by bringing in the dogs," Principal Bob O’Connor said.
Two dogs, a black labrador and German shepard, were brought in by three law enforcement at around 1 p.m. An announcement rang over the loudspeaker that hall passes were to be issued for emergencies only and that all students should remain in their classrooms.
"We’re trying to be as proactive as we can," school counselor Mary Klismith said.
Vice Principal Shawn Kuennen coordinated the drug search. Kuennen, along with the school’s counselors Klismith and Diane Cashel as well as its disciplinary committee, made the decision to bring in the dogs. The Parent Teacher Student Organization also approved the plan.
The dogs performed two sweeps of the building, focusing on the locker rooms and hallways. As the police led the dogs down the hall, they instructed them to "Find the gift." The "gift" was a short piece of white canvas that the dogs associated with the smell of drugs.
During the search, the dogs marked four lockers as suspicious, but no drugs were found. The police told Kuennen the dogs’ false hits could be from residue.
If drugs were found, O’Connor said, the school’s goal would be to provide those students with educational support and steps to curb abuse.
"We want this to act as a deterrent, but for the focus to be on education," Kuennen said.
Cashel and Klismith saw the drug dogs as way to send a message to both students and parents that the school is taking a strong stance against drugs.
"It’s an intervention that’s somewhat prevention as well," Cashel said "to maybe show kids who might be thinking about using what the consequences can be."
"We love it when the police come," Klismith said. "It shows we have a nice relationship with the community. That they are part of our team."
O’Connor said he sees drugs as a problem the whole community needs to address. "We need to help each other solve the problem," O’Connor said.
The dogs garnered a variety of reactions from students. Eighth-grader Hannah Hall said she really hadn’t noticed the dogs.
Sara McNaughton, also in eighth grade, said it was interesting that they brought them in during Red Ribbon Week a national drug prevention campaign because she felt like they would be less likely to catch someone and that it would have been more effective to search the students themselves instead of the lockers.
Jake Nichter, an eighth-grader and Kiara Cabanillas, a ninth-grader, both said the search was a good idea, while ninth-grader Edgar Eschobar, said he was not happy about the search and that the teachers were just trying to catch students.
In order to get student reaction to the drug dogs, Cashel and Klismith plan to post a question about it on the Red Ribbon Week "Wall" for students to anonymously respond to.
Kuennen said that bringing in the dogs went well and the school would probably do it again randomly.
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