High school to expand drug sweeps

Penn Manor School District will be expanding the scope of drug-detection activities at the high school for the remainder of the school year.

PMHS principal Philip Gale sent a letter home to parents and students explaining that drug-sniffing dogs will be used to detect the presence of drugs in the high school parking lot and randomly selected classrooms. Previously, the dogs were used only at student lockers.

The change is being made in response to an increase this year in student disciplinary incidents involving drugs and alcohol.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear High School Parents/Guardians and Students:

 The Penn Manor High School administration is committed to creating a safe and orderly school environment to encourage student learning and achievement. That commitment is achieved, in part, through the adoption and enforcement of school rules that prohibit students from possessing, using or distributing alcohol, drugs, tobacco products and/or related paraphernalia while on the school campus or attending off-campus events sponsored by the school district.

 Our High School is no different than many others in its experience every school year in having to discipline students for having or using these prohibited items in school.  Unfortunately, during the current school year, the High School administration has seen an increase in these types of disciplinary incidents.  The administration wishes to combat this trend of students being found in possession of items that not only violate school rules, but also Pennsylvania criminal laws.

 For several years, the High School administration has worked in conjunction with local law enforcement to have trained drug dogs sniff student lockers located in school hallways in order to detect the presence of drugs.  These activities have been unannounced, and performed in a manner that complies with Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent in order to protect student rights.

 The High School administration will be expanding the scope of these trained drug dog sniff activities in the future to include both the high school parking lot and randomly selected classrooms.  If the trained drug dog detects the presence of illegal drugs in a vehicle parked on campus, the High School administration will contact the person who registered that vehicle and then perform a search of its interior.  With regard to classroom searches, one or more classrooms will be randomly selected and the High School administration will ask the teacher and students to briefly exit the room.  Students’ personal belongings will remain in the classroom, and the drug dog will then be escorted through the empty classroom.  No person will be searched or sniffed by the drug dog.  If the presence of illegal drugs is detected in any student’s bag or purse, the High School administration will contact its owner and the content of that item will be searched in the school office.  Again, these activities will be done in a manner that respects students’ privacy and rights.

 We feel it is essential to advise you of this change before it is implemented, and hope that this letter may encourage a dialogue within your household to discourage the presence of illegal drugs within our High School.

 Sincerely,

Dr. Philip Gale
Principal
Penn Manor High School