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Drug dogs may come to YSHS

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At their Nov. 13 meeting, members of the Yellow Springs Board of Education discussed bringing in trained dogs to search for drugs in Yellow Springs High School.

The move is being promoted by YSHS Principal John Gudgel, Yellow Springs Police Chief John Grote and the YSHS/McKinney School Student Assistance Team, according to Gudgel at the meeting. Recently Gudgel sent a letter to parents of YSHS and McKinney School students stating that the dogs will be used as a means of keeping the schools drug-free. While he expected to hear from many parents concerned about the use of dogs, parents have been overwhelmingly supportive, Gudgel said.

Currently, Yellow Springs is the only Greene County town that does not use drug dogs, Gudgel said, stating that the decision to do so has been difficult.

“John and I agonize over decisions like this. This is the town we grew up in,” Gudgel said. “There’s the feeling that in Yellow Springs we trust each other and work things out, and I believe in that. But sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Our kids have to be safe.”

Most board members seemed favorable to the idea bringing in drug dogs, while also acknowledging the difficulty of the issue.

“The object is not to catch kids but to keep the schools clean,” Richard Lapedes said, while also stating that “kids and dogs are a tough combination and what people will react to. This is a tough one.”

Board member Sean Creighton emphasized the need to find out possible negative effects of using the drug dogs.

While the board has not voted specifically to approve the use of drug dogs, the official board policy is that Yellow Springs schools are drug-free, and the dogs are one means of achieving that goal, Gudgel stated in an interview this week, adding that the issue has been under consideration for several years.

Gudgel has the right to make the decision to use the drug dogs without board sanction, according to Board President Aida Merhemic in an interview this week. However, she said, “My preference is to have a public discussion. As a board we want to hear from people.”

Other board members on Thursday also expressed their desire for a public airing of views. That discussion is likely to take place at the board’s second meeting in January, according to Merhemic.

While there are no statistics available as to whether drug use has increased at the schools in recent years, means of identifying drug use have improved, and it’s clear that some students have problems, according to Gudgel, who also cited the drug-related deaths of local young people Tim Lopez and Iddi Bakari as reasons for his heightened concern.

“We do have kids currently in treatment, counseling or in the legal system due to drug use,” he said at the meeting.

In an interview following the meeting, Grote stated that, “We do know a certain number of drug deals are going on at the school. It’s not a large number, but a small number can have a large effect on the school.”

He does not know if the use of drugs has increased in the recent past, Grote said, stating that he is aware that marijuana is sometimes used at school and he has anecdotal evidence that other drugs are sometimes used, although he declined to be specific.

Several area police departments have trained dogs, including Beavercreek, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and Huber Heights, according to Grote, who said if the school moves ahead with the action, dogs from another department would come for a single, unannounced visit to Yellow Springs. The dogs would sniff lockers and possibly cars in the parking lot for evidence of drugs, and if they found something, “further investigation would be warranted,” Grote said. “The situation might be left at the school level or could be a criminal investigation” depending on the specifics.

Most of all, Grote said, “It is my hope to do a search and have nothing come up. That is my hope for if and when this happens.”

It’s important that parents and community members speak to board members about their feelings regarding the use of the dogs, board member Anne Erickson said on Thursday night.

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