The following column is “Notes from the Board Table,” the regular update from Bruce Likly, chairman of the Wilton Board of Education.  Likly submitted this column in response to questions the school district has received about the announced drug search using drug-sniffing dogs. In addition, following the column, includes comments made by school superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith in an interview conducted last week. 

Several questions have come up since we announced the Friday, Oct. 9 canine search at Wilton High School. I thought it would be a good idea to address these issues in a public forum, so there is no confusion as to when the search will take place, the scope of the search, and also to eliminate any doubt as to the Board’s intention in enacting this policy.

Officers from the Wilton Police Department will be on site at Wilton High School with drug detection dogs on Friday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m.. The search will take place while students are in class, and should be completed during the course of a single class period.

Dogs will sniff all non-classroom areas including lockers and locker rooms. In addition, all high school parking lots and parked vehicles will be searched. Any vehicle believed to contain an illicit substance will be inspected, as per Wilton Police procedure. This seems to be a point of confusion, so let me say it again:  The parking lots and vehicles are not off limits. Student cars parked in school lots will be subject to the canine search, as will student lockers and other interior locations.

I’ve also had inquiries about our decision to provide advance notification of the Oct. 9 search, with many puzzled about why we would allow students ample time to get rid of any illicit substances. When the Board enacted this policy last spring, we were very clear that the purpose was not to try and “catch” anyone with illicit substances. Rather, the purpose is to help students understand that school is no place for drugs, but if a student insists on bringing drugs to school, there will be consequences. By announcing the search ahead of time, we are providing fair warning, and a one-time opportunity for students to permanently remove any illicit substances from school premises.

Going forward, there will be no similar announcements. There will be future searches, but they will be unannounced. Also, please note that searches may take place at Middlebrook.

If illicit substances are found in school or in the parking lots, students may face consequences that range from suspension to expulsion. According to Board policy 5114, students may be suspended or expelled for conduct on school property or at a school-sponsored activity that endangers persons or property, violates a publicized policy of the Board, or is seriously disruptive of the educational process. This includes the possession, use, transmission, or being under the influence of any narcotic drug, hallucinogenic drug, amphetamine, barbiturate, or marijuana.

It is my sincere hope that the search will uncover no illicit drugs. But as much as I wish Wilton were immune from illicit drug use, sadly we must accept the reality that some of our students have made the poor choice to use drugs. And we must do everything possible to keep drugs out of our schools, so that every student feels safe and protected from the threat of drugs while on school property. As I said in my report last week, if this initiative saves just one life, or keeps a single student from experimenting with drugs, it will have been well worth the effort.

So to be clear — a canine search will take place at Wilton High School on Friday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m.. The search will take place while students are in class and will include areas inside the school as well as all vehicles in the school parking lots.

I will report back after the search takes place. With very few exceptions, I believe our community supports this policy and our goal of keeping drugs out of our schools. We’ve all read too many horrible headlines about “good kids” who made bad decisions with fatal consequences. Working together as a community, we can help keep our kids safe, and teach them to make the right choices.

Superintendent Kevin Smith on Drug Search:  “We’re Putting Everyone on Notice”

Superintendent Smith echoed his colleague Likly in an interview about the drug search last week.

“We wanted to give fair warning because this policy is such a dramatic change from past policy, by notifying everyone it acknowledges the major change from past practice, he said”

He acknowledged that he’d heard some complaints that publicizing and announcing the date of the search in advance would make it a ‘wasted exercise.’ However, he disagrees.

“We’re not looking to catch anyone. We wanted the school community to go through the search once and experience what it would be like knowing what would be happening, that the students go through it and talk about it. I feel very comfortable that it is an appropriate, respectful approach. In the future, advance notification won’t be public. We’re putting the community on notice that we don’t want these illicit substances in the school or unhealthy behavior in general.”