Lawrence High School administrators keep an eye on students when searches turn up drug paraphernalia in their lockers.
Specially trained dogs haven't turned up any drugs at Lawrence High School, but they have alerted administrators to students who could be at risk of dropping out.
Since January 1993, LHS has used drug-sniffing dogs to conduct random searches of students' lockers and cars.
Twice this school year, the school paid $400 to use a team of three dogs from Springfield, Mo. On several other occasions, the school used a dog from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department at no charge.
"Part of the strategy is to raise the level of concern of people who might want to bring drugs to school, and I don't think you need more than one dog walking down the hall sniffing around," said LHS Principal Brad Tate.
Tate said the searches turned up drug paraphernalia on two occasions during the 1993-94 school year. On other occasions, the searches turned up drug residue on students' clothing but no actual drugs.
Possession of used drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor. LHS administrators have the option of making a report to the sheriff's department, which in turn could hand the information over to prosecutors.
But school administrators chose to handle the incidents in-house, said LHS Assistant Principal Mike Browning.
"We're taking more of an assistance approach than a punitive approach," he said.
Browning said students are called to their lockers when a dog senses something. Any paraphernalia found is confiscated.
"Then what we try to do is monitor a student to see how he's doing in his classes and things like that," Browning said. "We talk to teachers on an everyday basis and say, 'Have you seen a change in behavior or attitude toward class?' "
Browning said the same procedure is followed when a dog senses drug residue on a student's clothing.
Brandon Urban, who'll be a senior at LHS this fall, said that while the drug searches serve a purpose, drug use among LHS students remains a problem.
"It may discourage students from bringing drugs to school, but it's not stopping the problem altogether," he said.