Sunday, February 17, 2013

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part CXIII): School under lock down for drug search

"Jasper School under lockdown Monday" is the lead story in the February 13, 2013 issue of the Newton County Times.  It reports that the Jasper School was under lock down on Feb. 11 while "a law enforcement canine and its handler accompanied by local law enforcement and staff conducted a search for contraband in student lockers and backpacks and in vehicles parked in the school parking lot."  The search was apparently conducted as a deterrent to student drug use, not because of any information indicating that any particular student(s) had or were using drugs.  The story quotes the high school principal as indicating that he was pleased with how things went but was "not at liberty to discuss what was or was not found."

Another campus in the Jasper system, Oark, was recently searched in similar manner, and the story reports that the last school in the district, Kingston, "will also be searched at some unannounced time."  The search was conducted by a Belgian Malinois, Tyson, and his handler, Carroll County Deputy D.J. Harlan.  Tyson is trained to sniff out illegal drugs and served a year in Iraq, the story notes.

A January 2, 2013 story reported that three 10th grade boys at the Jasper campus were suspended from classes and then expelled after they were found to be in violation of the district's policy on banned substances.  Following a 10-day suspension, one was expelled for an additional 30 days, and the other two were expelled for an additional 20 days.

In other school news, the Deer-Mt. Judea Board of Education heard at their January meeting of staff members' concerns about school security and the need for salary increases.  The Deer Elementary Principal, Pete Edgmon, said his staff members met after the school shootings at Sandy Hook in Connecticut to discuss what additional security measures they should take. Edgmon suggested that all Deer School building should be locked with only teachers allowing students in and out.  He suggested that entrances to main buildings would be locked and additionally guarded with a buzzer that would sound in their respective offices alerting to visitors, and surveillance cameras would be positioned in certain locations.  Edgmon also suggested that all staff should be fitted with walkie talkies when they had outdoor duties so they would be in direct contact with the offices at all times.  He opined that these measures would not be expensive to put in place.

Edgmon also reported that base teacher salaries have not bee raised in nine years, leading some younger teachers to look for opportunities elsewhere.  The superintendent, Richard Denniston, explained that the state legislature sets base teacher salaries, and it has not addressed the matter in at least the last three sessions.  "At the same time, schools are funded based on their average daily membership and enrollment" which, until recently, was on the decline.  He continued:
The school district must be cautious with expenditures to prevent the additional pitfall of landing on the state education department's fiscal distress list.  If a school district is on that list two consecutive years the state can close the school.  Some schools have reduced their staffs to cure their funding problems.  We're on a skeletal staff now.  
Denniston noted that individual families in the district had recruited foreign students to the school in order to increase enrollment and save it from mandatory consolidation.  However, he said that keeping enrollment at the current level (356) will be a challenge and he suggested that the district "pursue its many churches to support two foreign students each.  A bona fide effort by churches would help."  Denniston noted a similar effort by the Lead Hill School District in Boone County.

A separate story--indeed, the lead story--from the same January 30, 2013, issue of the paper was headlined "Pee-wee basketball teams will play to win." It reports on a survey conducted regarding the attitude that coaches should take in pee-wee basketball.  One paragraph of the story sums up the debate:
    The basketball program for fifth and sixth grade boys and girls has been discussed earlier this year both at school board meetings and at meetings held with coaches and parents.  The issue has been a philosophical one:  Everyone gets to play vs. Play the best players in order to win.
    The story does not indicate who responded to the survey, only that "the majority wants to play to win over more participation."  The next paragraph is quite confusing:  "The play to win agenda was followed until last year. Parents apparently did not want a repeat."  

    Another policy related to pee-wee basketball allows volunteer coaches to oversee practices and games, though at least one school district coach or other certified staff member or administrator must be present to monitor the gym and accompany teams to games.  The school coaches, who are too busy with the junior and senior high season to assist with pee-wee coaching, will nevertheless schedule the pee-wee games.  

    In other news:
    • A former member of the Compton Water Corporation's board of directors has expressed concern about the board being out compliance with bylaws by passing regulations and rules at private meetings.  
    • The Newton County Farmers Market Organization will be meeting on Feb. 25 to set up farmers markets for the upcoming growing season.  
    • The Mt. Judea Area Alliance is endorsing a Book Nook at Cave Creek.  This is part of the Little Free Library Movement (with between 5000 and 6000 libraries world wide), and retired school librarian Bertie Wells and her husband Ron Wells are responsible for it.  The Book Nook is in the front of the Wells yard, near the road. Everyone is encouraged to take a book and pass it on.    

    1 comment:

    Erin L said...

    The story of the search of students as a deterrent is alarming! In my criminal procedure class we learned that there needs to be at least reasonable suspicion that a student has contraband in order for a search to occur. The search of students without any suspicion seems to run afoul of this principle. However, these searches seem to be symptoms of larger problems with school discipline. There have been recent studies about disproportionality in school discipline, although these studies have been focused on urban and racial issues. It would be interesting to read more about the implications of suspensions in rural districts or attempts at alternative discipline methods.