The importance of taking ownership of assigned lockers has recently been stressed to students. To ensure a safe and healthy environment, a new policy approved by the district’s Board of Education allows for drug dog searches throughout the schools. Lockers, hallways and parking lots are to be checked on a semi-regular basis for prohibited items.
“There are a couple different kinds of dogs. There’s drug-sniffing dogs and there’s bomb detecting dogs…to keep drugs out of the school, we would be using the drug-sniffing dogs,” said Tim Kenney, principal.
According to Kenney, searches are most likely to be held randomly once per semester. During a search, students and staff will be under lockdown in the classrooms, while the dogs patrol the hallways and any empty rooms. It is stressed that canines will only come in contact with their professional handlers and not the students.
This policy was approved over the summer, allowing implementation in the 2015-16 school year.
“The policy has been worked on for a while. It actually came to the school board [a few years ago] and they decided not to implement the policy at that time,” Kenney said. “Almost all school districts in the state of Wisconsin have a canine search policy…we were one of the very, very few that didn’t.”
According to Kenney, students are now required to use their assigned lockers to ensure no identity mistakes are made in these searches.
“If somebody was in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia that the dogs could detect, and they had it in the locker that was assigned to you, that becomes an issue,” Kenney said. “This is why we’re being so insistent that students use their assigned lockers.”
However, some students are not completely in agreement. “I think them enforcing these strict rules on the lockers is, in my opinion, unnecessary, because we haven’t seen any real issues in the past with … drugs in school,” said Kayla Wasserman, senior. “At least that’s what I know.”
“They really didn’t explain it well and I just think it seems … to be causing unnecessary fuss over nothing,” Wasserman said.
For students who do not use their lockers at all, the assigned locker will be zip-tied so no one uses it. However, this is just a temporary solution; it doesn’t stop the locker from being opened by another person. It is stressed that students still put a lock on their locker in order to keep the contents secure.
“My responsibility is to help insure all lockers are locked, with a lock or zip tied,” said Nelson Brown, campus supervisor. “We just want every locker accounted for.”
In the past few years, little pressure was put on students to use assigned lockers.
“When I was the assistant principal here, in ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, everyone had an assigned locker,” Kenney said. “I don’t know why that changed while I was gone at Atwater . . . People ended up taking whatever lockers they wanted, and you ended up with a sixteen-week-old bologna sandwich. So it’s better that we know exactly who’s [using what locker].”
If students wish to change their locker for a rational reason, the administration will work to accommodate the student’s needs.
“There’s been some cases where people have said, ‘Okay, my assigned locker is way over here, but I’ve got four of my classes over in this building.’ We’re trying to sort through that with people,” Kenney said. “We’ve changed some locker assignments. We’re trying to work with the students as much as we can to make this work; I think it’s going pretty well.”
While regular canine searches are a step in prevention, Kenney is aware that any existing drug problem will not simply go away.
“We’re realistic about this. To me, this is not the end-all, be-all, ‘Yes! We got drug-sniffing dogs! We are going to eradicate our drug problem!’ No. You eradicate a drug problem through education,” Kenney said. “If you really want to get rid of a drug problem, yeah, there are consequences for that kind of behavior, but there has to be a response of assistance from the school. We’re also trying to figure out what our assistance program is going to look like, and that’s something that’s in progress.”
According to the Wisconsin Online Youth Risk Behavior survey Shorewood students took in December of 2013, 42% of SHS students agreed that drugs were a problem at the school, compared to a national statistic of 60% from 2012 (National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teen, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University).
“I think it’s a reasonable expectation that we keep drugs out of our schools. That’s what this is all about,” Kenney said.
Kenney was glad students were responding well to the changes.
“I just want to extend my appreciation to the student body. They’ve just rolled with the whole assigned locker thing, making sure it’s getting done. I expect it of the student body; we are Shorewood High School, but it’s always nice to have it actually happen,” Kenney said. “Shout-out to the student body: thanks for your cooperation. We’re off to a great start to the school year.”
by Lorlei Boyd and Ananya Murali