Licking County News

Licking Heights

Wagner: Drug sweeps will recur

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District officials say a random drug search of Licking Heights High School on Tuesday, March 4, won't be the last.

The search was part of a lockdown drill, which Licking Heights administrators and school board members say they intend to hold on a regular basis.

The drills will not always include a drug search, but there will be more drug searches before the end of this school year, Superintendent Philip Wagner said.

"One of the greatest deterrents (to drugs) is the unknown sweep," he said. "It'll happen again."

The district partnered with the Pataskala Division of Police, which brought in drug-sniffing dogs to search the high school building and randomly search the parking lot.

Students were given no advance notice of the search, but they did have the opportunity to deposit any drugs or paraphernalia into an "amnesty box" with no retribution.

According to a letter sent to district parents, the initial review by the police is that the amount of contraband collected was less than anticipated for a public high school and no "hard" drugs were found.

Pataskala police Detective Bradley Ramsey said he expected to find more drugs than were found.

"That's very encouraging," he said.

Ramsey said the e-cigarettes are a problem because, generally speaking, people can replace the usual e-cigarette oil with oil derived from marijuana.

Per the police, a review of the receptacles produced some cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and butane lighters, as well as a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana.

Additionally, the dogs found one student locker containing caffeine diet pills that will be further analyzed. There were no arrests or citations issued.

Wagner said future searches would be more extensive and no amnesty box would be included.

He said the drug sweep produced several outcomes.

First, it allowed a test of the district's lockdown procedures, which are used for multiple safety drills.

Second, it provided an opportunity to continue to strengthen partnerships with outside agencies.

Third, it provided information for the high school counselors and staff about some potentially harmful student behaviors and decisions. Such information provides a focus for student intervention.

Board member Richard Wand said the high school had no perceived drug issues, but board members and the administration have discussed increasing safety protocol, and a random drug search as part of a lockdown drill seemed appropriate.

"There was nothing that led up to (the search)," Wand said. "We just want everyone to know we're looking. We take school safety seriously."

Licking Heights High School Principal Kenneth Kraemer said lockdown drills will take place regularly and will have some sort of a theme, such as a drug sweep or a mock intruder, to prevent problems and actively involve students and staff in lockdown drills.

Wagner said it's always a benefit when lockdown drills can involve first responders.

He said schools have had regular fire drills for many years.

"We want to apply a similar standard to lockdowns," he said, which occur more and more frequently in public schools.

Wagner said drug sweeps will remain part of the lockdown drills in the high school and other district buildings.

"This is part of our future," he said.

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