Combating and deterring illegal drug possession within a high school is a problem that school districts often face. In an effort to discourage students from drug violations, High School District 211 has partnered with Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, and Palatine police departments to use police dogs to search for drugs on campus.
The searches began at the start of the 2011-12 school year, with police dogs checking student lockers within the school. Now, the District is planning to expand its searches to include student parking lots, as well.
“We recognize that some drugs come into our schools, and we fully acknowledge that we have kids who are caught with drugs,” said Dan Cates, associate superintendent for administrative services, in a news release. “By having the ability to search with dogs, we think that we have added to our already existent tools for finding those drugs and handling those violations.”
Each drug search is unannounced to both students and staff, and only takes place during one class period, keeping interruptions to the school day to a minimum. All classrooms go into a soft lockdown, and the school’s administration accompanies police officers and dogs through school hallways. No classes are disrupted during a search, and students do not come into contact with search dogs.
Cates said the decision to eventually expand searches to student parking lots came from improvements in each search the District has conducted. However, he did not specify when the expansion will take place.
“Moving into the parking lots will be a great added facet for us,” Cates said. “The first time we conducted a search, we were somewhat new at it, and we confined ourselves to the inside of the school building. The parking lots are clearly within our jurisdiction, and we hope to expand the range of our coverage.”
The District will take all data collected from each search and compare it with previous search data. This allows for future improvements in the methodology and execution, such as increased spontaneity of searches and fewer police officers and dogs each time.
Overall, community and faculty support has been extremely positive, and Cates describes the first year of this initiative as a success. He credits not only the cooperation of each school’s staff and students, but also the involvement of each police department.
“We greatly value our relationship with our local police departments, and it really is a partnership,” he said. “We have officers in each of our schools. We value their service, and we often work in joint collaboration, cooperation, and a shared mission with the police. That partnership is invaluable. We’re so appreciative to have their service, and we think all fronts of their involvement assist our communities.”
-Submitted by Township High School District 211