Sunday, April 5, 2009

New Jersey High School to Use Drug-Sniffing Dogs

In an article written in the New York Times, Tina Kelley reported on the new wave of alcohol and drug use prevention among New Jersey schools concerning their students.

The conflict here lies between the student’s rights versus the overall safety on the school campus. In an effort to promote security and assurance to its students, Millburn High school along with the superintendent have enlisted the help of county and local police along with police canine presence on their school campus regarding alleged alcohol and drug usage among students.

“We seek to discourage illegal substances from being brought into school and to show unequivocal support for those students who do ‘just say no,’ ” the principal of Millburn High, William S. Miron, and the district superintendent, Richard Brodow, wrote in an e-mail message to parents and students Friday afternoon. “I willingly risk student trust if it saves a single life."

This article hit home for several reasons. One Seton Hall, while a college university not a high school, is within Essex County that I currently attend. Secondly, Millburn is only a few miles away from our campus. It asks the question, if Millburn cops find it necessary to carry out such practices or implement changes in the name of public safety, what about neighboring towns also within Essex County? Will the new school policy adopted by Millburn and West Essex have a domino effect on other towns within Essex County? Moreover, will it affect colleges and universities also within the county, such as Seton Hall or Rutgers?

I for one am a New Jersey native and attended high school in Bergen County. Like most high schools, there were both a drug and alcohol presence on campus, but if anyone was suspected of doing or participating in that sort of activity they were simply ushered across the street, essentially off school property/campus and therefore were no longer subject to the school’s authority. Suffice to say, much, if any alcohol or drug use, was more or less practiced outside of school or off school grounds. While the idea or intention may be in good heart, in theory; however, in practice, the idea of having large police canines trotting up and down school hallways, around lockers or in and out of rooms is rather obnoxious distracting. School is suppose to be an academic atmosphere and place setting; to have such ‘props’ if you will, parade around a campus, is to alter the overall atmosphere: it is no longer comfortable grounds for learning, but rather, a scene which attracts attention and not the good kind.

According to the article, since the 2002 Supreme Court ruling, other New Jersey schools have taking such safety measures just as seriously utilizing random drug testing, especially if students participated in sport related activities.

The argument can be understood two-fold: while there should be a strong sense of awareness regarding drug and alcohol activity, awareness should at one point materialize into action essentially forming a solution towards said problem. However, at what expense? As stated before, the environment in which a student learns in and pretty much spends most of their day, their week and practically their year should not be compromised by the presence of large police canines (which are almost always associated with a problem and therefore will be greeted with tension, paranoia and anxiousness) that is not a comfortable environment or learning atmosphere, especially, if such activity occurs mostly off of school property or is just ‘ushered’ off of school property anyways. The problem still exists but in this capacity it is no longer a matter of just school policy or enlisting harsh school policy, rather an issue that the town and/or county needs to look at it.

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