Drug War -- Police vs. Students

This week, an hour-long lockdown of a West Virginia high school, involving 7 dogs and 21 police from eight different departments, yields one marijuana possession citation; for the first time in 35 years, Massachusetts allocates more funds for prisons than schools; and a group of police from Pennsylvania successfully argue to have their random drug test results thrown out.

November 21 -- West Virginia's Parkersburg News reports: An impromptu lockdown at Parkersburg High School resulted in one drug citation and kept students and teachers locked in their rooms for about an hour Thursday afternoon.

Parkersburg High administrators accompanied seven police dogs and 21 officers as they swept about a quarter of the classrooms at the school and a student parking lot. Teachers were told to lock classroom doors and keep students in their classes until told otherwise.

"It is tough when you lock a school down," said Principal Ralph Board.

"We thought it was important to send a message to students and the community that we are trying to have the safest environment possible here."

The dogs alerted to five backpacks and two vehicles, said Board, though a later search found no drugs in the book bags or in one of the vehicles.

Detective Greg Collins, spokesman for the Parkersburg Police Department, said a search of a second vehicle resulted in one adult citation for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana.

Parents were notified if their child was among those whose possessions were tagged by the dogs, Board said. At least one parent arrived at the school to give police permission to search a student's car. The search found nothing.

Board said the school-wide lockdown was a precautionary measure to protect students while the police dogs were being led through rooms and hallways.

The sweep was not prompted by any previous incident, he said.

The police dogs and their handlers came from Athens County, Ohio, Belpre Police Department, Marietta Police Department, Vienna Police Department, Meigs County, Ohio, and the Parkersburg Police Department. The Parkersburg S.W.A.T. team, Detective Bureau, Evidence Technician and Tactical Patrol Unit helped with the sweep.

November 25 -- The Boston Globe reports: For the first time in at least 35 years, Massachusetts is spending more on prisons and jails than on public higher education, according to a report released yesterday.

This year's state budget included $816 million in appropriations for campuses and student financial aid, and $830 million for prisons and jails, said the report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

November 27 -- Pennsylvania's Press Enterprise reports: The borough has thrown out the results of the recent drug tests of Berwick police officers and has agreed not to make the findings public, officials say.

Thirteen police officers here were surprised Nov. 17 when they were told to go to Berwick Hospital for drug tests. Only a few members of council knew about the tests, which were authorized by Borough Manager Molly Sprung. Borough Council President Lucille Whitmire said the borough had "probable cause" and the legal right to do the testing.

The police officers complied, but they argued that the tests were not properly conducted. Drug tests are not mentioned in their contract, and the tests were not random, said Officer Holden Sprung, union representative. On Nov.18, the police officers filed a grievance against the borough, asking for the results to be thrown out.

Sprung, the borough manager, said Wednesday that the borough agreed to void the results. The borough and the police department are now working to create a drug-testing policy to allow tests in the future, she said.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson drugwarbriefs@yahoo.com.


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