In Ken Trainor's recent column, he "imagines" what Oak Park and River Forest High School would be like if dogs were used to help keep drugs out of the building [What message are we sending on drugs? Viewpoints, March 2]. Unfortunately, his article is a work of fiction, filled with inaccuracies, intent on inciting fear. An internment camp is how Trainor describes a school environment using dogs as a drug deterrent, and he contends drugs are not a problem in the building anyway. I disagree.
The reality is drug dealers, students and nonstudents, operate freely within OPRF every day. The open campus allows anyone easy access into the building, and to its students. While students are required to wear IDs, few do, and the policy is largely unenforced. Security is a major concern. Students routinely see drug deals going down in bathrooms and locker rooms, and they report smelling pot in the hallways. At least one teacher has said it is difficult to teach class after lunch some days because so many students are stoned. There is a link between drug and alcohol use by students and achievement. A parochial school in Chicago, with a wide socioeconomic population, implemented a mandatory, random drug-testing program several years ago. After its fourth year of implementation, the school reports its graduating class achieved the highest test scores in 15 years.
While most high schools use a variety of drug deterrents, OPRF uses none. Eight schools in the West Suburban Conference, in which OPRF belongs, use trained golden retrievers or police dogs to help keep drugs out of their respective schools. The dogs do not come in contact with students. A search can take as little as 20 minutes, and its cost is minimal. Dogs are an effective deterrent, sending a strong anti-drug message to students and drug dealers alike. By law, OPRF can conduct a search with dogs at any time. It is even outlined in the 2010-2011 student handbook, on page 34. When the choice is between dogs and drugs in our high school, I choose dogs.
Our students deserve to learn in a safe, drug-free environment. It is time the OPRF administration and board, with the full support of the faculty senate, take steps to make this the new reality.
Monica Rogers Sheehan
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