Our students deserve better than drug-sniffing dogs

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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How very sad and disturbing to see progressive Oak Park giving into fear and anxiety. Do we really want to go down the road of drug-sniffing dogs, a closed campus, drug testing and generally fear-based strategies for addressing drug issues [Testing, canines draw support at drug forum, News, Dec. 15]? I see about 60 parents who seem to be supporting these ideas, and I hope our school administration recognizes that Oak Park and River Forest High School is a community of more than 3,000, and some of us are very upset about these ideas.

Do we have no confidence in our children or in our relationships with our children? In my mind, pretending to do something about a problem, or doing hurtful things, is worse than not doing anything at all. I really hope we are more thoughtful than that. I know our kids are. These proposed strategies do not address what we know about teenage drug use, and, I believe, violate our children's constitutional rights, which is, in my mind, never a good idea.

We know some of the things that will help our kids stay away from drugs. We know that parent involvement can make a big difference. We know that we should be listening to our children and talking to our children. We also know that some children may develop problems despite our best efforts, and we should want to understand why that is before we implement strategies that may be part of the problem rather than the solution. We should be watching films like "Race to Nowhere" and thinking seriously about what it tells us about the kind of stress many of our children are experiencing.

We also know that dogs make lots of mistakes, and have been found by at least some school districts to be costly and ineffective. This article from the American Civil Liberties Union makes the point well: http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform/nine-mile-falls-school-district-abandons-drug-sniffing-dog-searches.

Closing the campus will punish all of our kids, mostly good kids. The same issue of the Wednesday Journal that discussed drug sniffing dogs celebrated "Teach Me How to Huskie" [Huskie flash dance fever, Inside Report, Dec. 22]. Our kids are smart and creative; they are hard workers and good friends. They deserve better from us and I hope we don't let them down.

Ruth Lazarus
Oak Park

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Reader Comments

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Melissa from Oak Park  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 9:08 AM

For all readers of this article, oakpark.com/riverforest.com, and interested community members: SAVE THE DATE - On February 15th there will be a forum to learn more about our substance abuse problem at OPRFHS. Time and Location to be determined.

Slim Shady  

Posted: December 31st, 2010 4:26 PM

I'm "The Real Violet Aura". Boo-yah ! http://www.thevioletaura.com/


Posted: December 31st, 2010 3:31 PM

Freesprit says:"It is a known fact that there is a much HIGHER number of students that do NOT live in our community that sneak in using fake addresses and get away with it at OPRF." Higher than what, Freespirit? And if it is a "known fact" and "not an assumption," how about citing some sources?


Posted: December 31st, 2010 3:28 PM

Violet- Freespirit means that OP blacks would not be expected to have such a disproportionately high suspension rate. So they must be coming from Chicago. But there are no facts or sources to support that assesrtion.


Posted: December 31st, 2010 2:49 PM

Illinois School Code - attendee of OPRF HS must reside in Oak Park or River Forest with guardian. It is against the law to: Enroll/attempt to enroll on tuition-free basis when student is not resident of OPRF HS. Knowingly present HS any false information regarding the residency of a student for the purpose of enabling the student to attend on a tuition-free basis. Evidence of crimes given to law enforcement authorities & punishable 30 days prison and $500 fine. HS will charge tuition on day the student was enrolled illegally in the District through the time the student is dropped.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 31st, 2010 1:22 PM

@Freespirit: I really don't get where you were going with that statement about the Black students' suspensions being "too high." I have read complaints about the disproportionate ratio (Black to White) of suspensions at OPRF. Is the implication that racism is causing staff to punish Black kids at a higher rate than they would to Whites for a similar infraction? I doubt it, given our uber liberal town. If Black kids are misbehaving more, they should get suspended MORE, not evenly for some quota.

Freespirit from coke park  

Posted: December 31st, 2010 12:53 PM

Like I've shared before, the school doesn't care about residency issues. They have all the rules printed nicely in the handbook, but NO ONE enforces anything. Security is part of the problem too. They KNOW who doesn't live in this community and they could care less. That's not their job, pass that responsibility on to someone else. They'll just play with the students and lean against the walls that hold them up! Our problems began when black students started attending ILLEGALLY from the city.

Freespirit from coke park  

Posted: December 31st, 2010 12:44 PM

I remember reading last year that 1800 detensions were given to Black students alone at our HS. That number is far too high for black students. I wonder where these student live? It is a known fact that there is a much HIGHER number of students that do NOT live in our community that sneak in using fake addresses and get away with it at OPRF. This is not an assumtion, and Mr. Rouse can say what he wants, but I believe he too knows students that are attending and chooses to remain quiet.


Posted: December 31st, 2010 8:47 AM

C.L.- Until someone can show a connection, I am separatting the problem of drugs in school from that of non-residents attending. As to the latter, gross inequity in school funding/quality IS the problem. Otherwise there would be no incentive for district-jumping. Schools should be funded equally from a state-wide tax, not from property taxes. Inequality in education is a much larger problem than non-residents attending Oak Park schools.


Posted: December 31st, 2010 8:27 AM

Strongly Agree with DJ regarding the PARENTS - they are the key to the Drug and achievement problem. Local Solutions - No need to mess with the constitution, that is not the problem. If people are attending schools when they are not residents, enforce the laws - that's all. People can not pick and choose which laws they want to enforce. Also, I never said the problem would go away by keeping out of district students out of OPRF. I said, this was ONE of the things we should do. However,

DJ from Oak Park  

Posted: December 30th, 2010 11:07 PM

And how about a constitutional amendment mandating equal funding for public schools? If there was anything close to equality in the quality of public schools, the incentive to "crash" OP schools would be greatly ameliorated.

DJ from Oak Park  

Posted: December 30th, 2010 11:01 PM

OPRF Drugs, let's start with the parents. And if we think the problem is large enough to warrant closing the campus, random inspections, drug-sniffing dogs, etc., so be it. But let's not assume without knowing that the drug problem will go away if we keep out-of-district students out of the school. To assume that out-of-district students are the source of the drug problem is ostrichism.

OPRF Drugs  

Posted: December 30th, 2010 10:34 PM

DJ, Thank You how wonderful. What than shall we do - Please enlighten us all on your suggestions in dealing with the issues that confront all of Oak Park as well as OPRF HS that are part of this community discussion.

DJ from Oak Park  

Posted: December 30th, 2010 9:33 PM

CL, half of Oak Park is east of the high school, so your proposal seems like a colossal fools' errand. Moreover, the point is that, regardless of the number of students who are immigrating from Austin, to assume without facts that they are the primary source of drugs in the high school is racist. Violet, surely you understand that we cannot make public policy based on anecdotal hearsay. In any event, immigration from Austin is exactly what we should expect when school funding is inequitable.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 28th, 2010 9:57 AM

A friend recently shared w/me that students from the hs were in a courtyard of a Lake St business - they did not realize they could be seen and started smoking pot - these kids were not who would be "profiled". The organization called the police but the kids had moved on by then. Closed campus seems reasonable. And yes residency should be better enforced - I have heard of several families who went to local private schools and could not benefit from OPRF then "rented" in Oak Park - hmm...

OPRF Drugs  

Posted: December 27th, 2010 7:54 PM

A closed campus for all except Seniors. Random drug testing for all Students, periodic dog sniffing - and ENFORCE all Residency rules.


Posted: December 27th, 2010 7:44 PM

Why is it that people always blame the "outsider" for the issues. C.L. I have walked the streets at night and seen and SMELLED many of your precious Oak Parkers. Focus things at home, and not the couple few that are coming in from the city. Do you have real evidence for this? Most likely not, so Stop scapegoating, and focus on the issue at hand.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 26th, 2010 4:39 PM

Oh, and forgot to add that when this woman shared this info with other OPRF parents, they were appalled and asked her why it is allowed, when they pay taxes. She said that those in charge at the high school are intimidated by the parents or whoever, afraid of being called intolerant. Oy vey...So anything goes? Is this what being fair is all about?

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 26th, 2010 4:36 PM

DJ: Actually, I overheard a woman talking about this very issue. Apparently, she was a teacher or worked in some capacity at OPRF. She was saying that the kids from outside OPRF are "special needs" kids and for some reason are allowed to go to OPRF. Perhaps they got kicked out of their local CPS school? And it's not just Austin, I am sure. I saw a girl board the bus at OP and Lake after school and get off in Berwyn. Maybe even Maywood kids have relatives in OP and use their address...LOL


Posted: December 26th, 2010 9:05 AM

DJ you have a Good point - lets not assume anything. Lets begin to profile, just like the police do. Lets follow all who get on a bus or train that goes East after school, and see exactly who is FRAUDULENTLY attending OPRF. Remember, each student that attends the HS is costing us about 10K - and that does not count the complimentary lunches that Freespirit talked about.

DJ from Oak Park  

Posted: December 25th, 2010 5:27 PM

When one ASSUMES, without knowing, that the primary source of drugs at OPRFHS is black kids from across Austin, what does that tell you? It shouldn't surprise us that some west-side parents send their kids to OP schools, given the stark disparity in school-quality that is divided only by Austin Boulevard. At least it shows that those parents care about their kids. No doubt many of you who complain about it would do the same thing if you were in the same position.

Freespirit from "coke"park  

Posted: December 25th, 2010 12:11 AM

CL: The high school doesn't care about residency. They only have but 2 ppl doing the work of 10. Mr. Conway, in a past article talking about this said, "we don't follow the kids that get on the bus." The BUS?? How about that El? Students that graduated last year KNEW of a ton of black student that did NOT live in Oak Park or River Forest and went to our school FREE of charge, including their FREE and or REDUCED lunches! Think about them when you pay your next tax bill!!


Posted: December 24th, 2010 8:56 AM

Melissa - You missed the point. If you want to deal with the problem, follow the trail of the drugs - the supply. Start Profiling - so all students do not have to be treated in this manner and follow up Diligently and Timely on residency issues. Let's take a guess, out of the 3000 kids how many are NON residents. We the Taxpayers are footing the bill for education (and drug problems) for people from Chicago. As to the campus issue, close to all except Seniors - and then re-examine next year.


Posted: December 23rd, 2010 9:14 PM

I'm open to discussing any ideas that will help keep drugs out of the high school whether it's drug-sniffing dogs, closed campuses or drug-testing. And, I don't see these options as fear based, but rather coming from a caring, open place where we are committed as a community to keeping our kids and their place of learning safe. Ruth, if you haven't been to one of the Community Cafes - please come to the next one in February and share your thoughts!


Posted: December 23rd, 2010 9:26 AM

OPRF and Fraud of Taxpayers! The Board needs to spend some of the $80 million it has in the bank - or lend some to D97. It is a passing joke among the kids at OPRF and Security Guards - as to how many kids attend OPRF yet live in Chicago and go home every day on the L. Wonder where the Drugs are coming from? OPRF needs to crack down on this FRAUD of the Taxpayers! Why is the Board not looking into this??

Sally Forth from Oak Park  

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 11:03 AM

Ruth, some good points, but you missed more. I have trust & confidence in my kids. It's those outside of my sphere of influence that concern me, and most parents. Which is why closing the campus is a good idea. I'll keep an open mind about dogs, but if it is a deterent, it's worth a look. And please, even in left-leaning Oak Park, bringing the hateful, intolerant ACLU into any discussion is a non-starter and destroys credibility.

Roy-River Forest  

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 8:55 AM

@Ruth:Please check your facts,courts from the local to the U.S.Supreme have been pretty consistent:A child has no right to privacy in a publicly owned school locker, or in a bag they bring into the school. Sorry. These programs are not designed to "catch" kids, but deter them from bringing these poisons into our children's schools.Your ultra left-wing ACLU folks could care less about our kids,as they regularly ensure that murders, pedophiles and drug dealers walk our streets.


Posted: December 21st, 2010 11:47 PM

Thanks for the article Ruth. Though I disagree with you on some points I think that your highlight what is needed. More proactive work. Parents need to be more involved in their children's, and need to set more boundaries. I think drug-sniffing dogs is a bad idea. Random drug test is a bad idea too. However, many high schools, like the one I attended was closed, and I think that is a good idea. Why do high school students need to go off campus during school hours?

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