Random Drug Sweeps Send the Right Message


Walpole Police Department utilized drug search dogs to assist in the December sweep. (Graphic/ Angela Pyne)

Molly O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief

Walpole Police Department and Walpole High School Administration completed a random drug sweep on Dec. 18.

The search lasted about 20 minutes, during which a team of trained dogs and police officers surveyed the cafeteria, bathrooms, lockers rooms, cafeteria and parking lot. Prior to this, Principal Stephen Imbusch announced in one of his weekly e-mails to families that unannounced sweeps would be conducted periodically throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

Yes, these unexpected drug searches may initially be daunting, considering Walpole High School has never experienced anything similar to this since the 2016 search. Although the sweep in 2016 was a bit extreme since it was completely unannounced, the currents sweeps are a step in the right direction for preventing drug use within the schools.

Recently, Walpole High has taken steps to inform students on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction: the day after the sweep, the school community welcomed Christian Maki to speak to upperclassmen on his experience with drug addiction. And although no students suffered any serious consequences from the sweep, the search set the precedent that drug use within the school will not be tolerated. The mission of the school is to keep students safe above all else, so their attempts to create a substance-free environment is completely justified. These sweeps have also created the potential for more conversation between students and their families to discuss the dangers of drug use, and with the threat of possible spontaneous sweeps, students should refrain from further participating in this behavior at school.

Despite the search failing to identify any students breaking the drug policy, this does not mean that the school is substance free. Vaping with vape pod kits and using other related substances in school is nothing new. However, the abundant drug use and vaping across the country body is rapidly increasing: the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 11.7 percent of high school students have used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, which is vastly different than the 1.5 percent estimate from 2011.

The school system cannot just ignore that. Any new system to combat the drug epidemic in school will receive some criticism, and it will need to be constantly improved, so the sweeps should be adjusted in order to make them more effective if Walpole High School decides to continue them.

It is no secret that some students will abuse the drug policy and continue to vape and use drugs in school despite any rule or any amount of unannounced drug searches. However, this new system will hopefully lower the current number of student infractions to this rule and will make students think twice about bringing or using drugs in school.

Students and staff must work together to come to an understanding that the use of drugs in school is not only illegal, but it creates an environment that is not supported by the school community’s mission for students. And the recent sweep adequately conveyed this message.

Walpole High School cannot necessarily control if and how students decide to use drugs or alcohol outside of school, but their actions are justified inside of school where some students are using drugs and threatening the safety of other students who are making the right choices.

Administration took the necessary steps prior to the sweep regarding informing the community: they warned the students of the change, and it is now the responsibility of the students to act appropriately.

Despite the backlash from some students, vaping and drug use in schools stresses the need for more severe steps to be taken to prevent the perpetuation of this behavior. Nonetheless, the recent drug sweep exhibited the values for student safety and the determined goal to make Walpole High School a substance-free environment.