Following the K-9 search for illegal drugs at Wilton High School on Oct. 12, GOOD Morning Wilton‘s student contributor Caroline Wilson, wrote the following opinion piece. Wilson is a sophomore at WHS.

The drug search at Wilton High School on Oct. 12 was just the first of any number of searches that could take place this year. The administration is hoping to keep WHS drug free, and if any students are identified through the searches, to help rather than punish.

However, students were the most ignored component of the entire affair. Several of the articles published about the event have focused on the facts of what happened, whether or not the search was a misuse of resources, and statements by police and school officials about the search. But the students, who were the ones directly impacted by the search, haven’t had any representation, nor have their opinions been heard.

Here’s what you need to know about WHS:  it’s far from drug free. I’ve seen kids in the halls and libraries smoking weed. Every now and again, classmates have pulled out water bottles that were filled with something other than water in class. And that’s just what they do during school hours.

During the third quarter of home football games, band members are allowed to fraternize with those sitting in the student section. However, we have an unspoken code of conduct that bans drugs and alcohol while we play, and if Mr. Gawle (our band director) can see that the student section is boozed up or sky high, he’ll tell us to stay away. It seems that after every weekend, without fail, I’ll check other people’s Snapchats to find their stories of drinking or smoking their brains out in a dimly lit basement.

Kids have gotten smarter; a couple years ago, those Snapchat stories would have been on Facebook (which, sometimes, they are, although it’s very rare) where anyone could have seen them. Teenagers are figuring out new ways to hide their usage of illegal substances, which might be why Wilton is turning to new ways–using dogs–to find drugs.

Overall, the reaction of students I spoke with about the drug search was positive. They knew that it “ensures our safety as students, and it benefits the community.” No one said that testing for drugs or trying to get rid of drugs was stupid or something that WHS shouldn’t be focusing on. One student even said that it was a good idea, as it “…keeps the younger freshmen and sophomores from getting into huge trouble or worse, developing an addiction,” by showing them that drugs are a serious offense. Just about every student expressed some kind of approval of the effort.

But not everyone supported it. For example, one student pointed out the belief that while the lockers are school property, what is stored inside isn’t. The lack of probable cause was something that was also pointed to. In addition, several kids thought that bringing in dogs was a little much and kind of showy.

What’s more, it may not completely dissuade students from using. According to another one of my WHS classmates, the search didn’t find everything: “My friend had weed in her car and didn’t get caught,” they said. The same student also admitted to drinking on school grounds several times.

The talk is pretty present, with reports that several WHS kids do cocaine, and there are even rumors of some heroin use–they’re not widespread, but it’s believed that heroin is here in Wilton. A different student summed up what many others think about kids who use drugs:  “If they want to f*ck up their lives then go ahead.”

Having said all of this, there are those at WHS who don’t think that the drug problem here is as bad as in other towns. One student, who says she has friends who attend New Canaan High School, alleges that the drug problem is far worse there: “…kids have buried drugs in the woods so that they can get high in school… the issue isn’t that drastic in Wilton.” They then stated that the drug search was a good step to get what drug use there is at WHS out.

So what’s my take on this?

There shouldn’t be drugs in school. It’s against the law and a risk to safety. But drugs in the school isn’t the problem. The problem is the fact that drugs are used regularly, are readily available, and are ever-present. Sure, you can eradicate drugs and drug usage within the school, and the town can now say the high school is drug-free. But are those students actually going to stop smoking or drinking just because school is no longer a place where they can get high or drunk?

Doing the search might achieve the opposite of the desired goal (“to help, rather than to punish,” according to one Wilton official). Because the search was announced so far in advance, people cleared out their lockers of all substances. Some of those students might have had serious problems with alcohol or marijuana. Now, those who should have been found out are still under the radar, and aren’t receiving the help they need. Shutting the school down for half an hour and bringing in fully armed police officers with drug-sniffing dogs scared quite a few people. Says one student: “a lot of people do drugs but now everyone is paranoid.” Frightening kids and ignoring the problem isn’t going to help anyone.

Is there a solution? I don’t know; I’m no police officer. Drug addiction is a serious illness; treating that illness will help eliminate the substance. Maybe our focus should be on cleaning up people rather than cleaning up the lockers of a school. Perhaps we should encourage the students. Really, the parents need to be a big part of this too.  So, if you have a high schooler, I implore you to sit down with them, whether it be in the car or the family room, and have an open and honest conversation about drugs. Don’t pry, yell, or lecture. Just talk. Drugs are not something to be taken lightly. They shouldn’t be in our schools or homes.