Drug-sniffing dogs periodically going into Downriver schools are nothing new. In Gibraltar, it’s been happening for at least a decade.
But some parents and students may question why it’s being done. Does it indicate the school district has a drug problem?
Absolutely not, said Amy Conway, superintendent of the Gibraltar School District.
On the morning of Dec. 5, police took drug-sniffing dogs into Shumate Middle School and Carlson High School and did not find any illegal narcotics.
“I’ve been superintendent for four years and they’ve never found any drugs (during that time), Conway said. “But it sends a message that we take this seriously. We are anti-drug. We are not tolerating drugs in our schools.”
Conway said she realizes this doesn’t mean that illegal drugs have never been brought into the schools. It simply means that on the days random searches have taken places, K-9s haven’t detected their presence.
However, school officials see it as a good sign that during an unbroken streak of several years, police have not found drugs inside the middle school and high school.
Realizing parents and students may have questions when they see or hear about police officers and drug-sniffing dogs going through their schools, Shumate Principal Eric Cassie and Carlson Principal Jessica Shultz sent a joint email to parents explaining that the dogs are specialized and are only handled by highly trained police officers from Gibraltar and surrounding communities.
They said the K-9 officers sniffed places where drugs may be stored, including hallway lockers, gym lockers, empty classrooms and the parking lot.
“Dogs are never used to sniff students, and as such, the activities today did not include direct student/dog interaction of an investigatory nature,” they stated in their email communication.
In addition to the main purpose of making sure drugs stay out of schools, Conway said a side benefit is that these events prove to be useful training exercises for the dogs and their handlers. She said four dogs were used in the most recent search.
While educators seek to keep all tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs out of the schools, Conway said the biggest issue most local school districts have faced over the past few years has been vaping.
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred to as water vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device, such as a vape pen and personal vaporizers.
Although once thought to be relatively harmless, since e-cigarettes don’t produce tobacco smoke, the aerosol actually consists of fine particles.
According to centeronaddiction.org, many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease.
The Center on Addiction states that the newest and most popular vaping product is the JUUL, which is a small, sleek device that resembles a computer USB flash drive.
According to the center, its subtle design makes it easy to hide, which helps explain why it has become so popular among middle and high school students.
It comes in several enticing flavors like crème brûlée, mango and fruit medley. The Center on Addiction states that every JUUL product contains a high dose of nicotine, with one pod or flavor cartridge containing about the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.