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Proposal for Drug Sweeps at High School On Hold

Code of Conduct as well as district policy are under review; new Dignity Act must also be taken into account.

Nearly eight months after Trustee Joe Sabia raised the idea of using Suffolk County Police Department narcotics detection dogs in at Northport High School, the district is still seeking to qualify for the program. 

Before sweeps can begin, the police department requires that schools notify all parents and legal guardians in writing of the following policy: that the school owns all lockers and locks on school property; students do not have any right or expectation of privacy for items stored within those lockers; and the school has the right to access the lockers at any time with or without advanced notice.

Lawyers are currently reviewing district policy as well as the Code of Conduct, which now must also comply with New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) which seeks to provide students with an environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property. The Dignity Act was signed into law on Sept. 13 and 2010 and takes effect on July 1, 2012.

Boards of Education are required to include language addressing the Dignity Act in their codes of conduct. Schools will also be responsible for collecting and reporting data annually on incidents of discrimination and harassment.

Once the legal review is over, the Board of Ed will have two readings of the policy and Code before adoption.

Anthony Ferrandino, Drug and Alcohol Student Assistance Advisor, sees the sweep program as enforcing the existing efforts the district is already undertaking, including the work of the Drug & Alcohol Task Force and early intervention programs. He sees communication as key. “Once you send that letter out, it’s going to start a dialogue between kids and parents.”

Ferrandino works in conjunction with Sean Boylan, who runs the Alternative School at the William Brosnan building for students who have been suspended.  Typically a student who is under the influence at school but who isn’t found with any drugs and has no previous record, will be suspended from school for five days.

Greater infractions such as possession carry a longer suspension, but Ferrandino says students who choose to participate in the alternative program can receive a shorter suspension from the Superintendent. “We can’t force them.”

Students in the program are tutored from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day, along with counseling from Ferrandino twice a week. Once they return to school, he’s available three days a week for additional counseling.

“We’ve been very successful,” Ferrandino said. “When students come in, their GPAs typically go up.” Students with other issues not related to drugs, such as anger management, can also participate in the program.

If sweeps do occur, they would take place in an area determined by school officials. Students in that area would be kept in their classrooms for the duration of the sweep, which would be completed within a single period. Targeted sweeps of individual lockers would not occur. If the dog “indicates” to a locker, the locker would be searched, and a uniformed Second Precinct police officer would be responsible for any contraband seized. School officials would be required to provide the police with the name, date of birth, and address of the student, and the police could effect a summary arrest.

Given the late date in the school year, September seems more likely for the the district to move forward with the drug sweeps. Although the process is a lengthy one, Sabia is hopeful. “I think it will get done.”

FYI April 16, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) which seeks to provide students with an environment free from discrimination, illegal drugs, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property. Two words added would provide responsibility along with rights.
karen from East Northport April 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Best to do the Middle Schools first.
FYI April 18, 2012 at 12:14 PM
great suggestion. Although we'd like to think otherwise, the drug/drinking many times begins in middle school. Drug sweeps and presence of police authority would set a serious tone about tolerance.
karin brennan April 18, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I agree. Yes the drugs and drinking do begin in the middle school. Nip it in the "bud" before the addictions get out of control.So many parents are in denial about the severe drug crisis in our district.Most likely they will keep the drugs/paraphernalia in there lockers since there are no cars to hide them in.
jean April 18, 2012 at 06:16 PM
My son is now in a therapeutic wilderness program because of all the pot that he was smoking and that was available from the other students at the high school. He was failing school and cutting classes and simply hanging around with kids who were also doing drugs. And they all went to the high school. Yes, drugs sweeps must be done to protect all students as well as to help through intervention the students that sell and do drugs. Why is the district having their lawyers review policies? What policies? More money to esqs. when monies must go towards helping these children. What are they looking at constitutional questions, please. Thank God, my son is in a great and safe place and now realizes it was the environment at the high school as well as the drugs that he was using that put him in a terrible place. He is doing fantastic now and will continue his education in a therapeutic boarding school with continued drug counseling. And thanked God I can afford the programs, but what about the moms and dads that can't? What can the district do to help them? Start finding the drugs now and help the kids that we can now!
FYI April 19, 2012 at 07:11 PM
What provisions are made for students who realize their lockers are subject to search and then choose to carry the drugs on their person instead? Will students randomly be subject to walking past the drug dogs on their way into school, similar to the bomb sniffing dogs they must walk past during bomb scares? Will drug dogs be able to check student cars in the parking lot? They dogs would have a field day alerting and don't even need an open vehicle to check. If the district is serious and not just attempting to apply another bandaid to placate parents, there is a lot more that can be done.
kim April 20, 2012 at 03:04 AM
My high schooler educated me tonight about "four twenty" which I had never heard of. 4/20 is 'pot day' and many students have pledged to go to school stoned or get stoned during the day. After some internet searching I do see that he is correct and this indeed takes place around the country on 4/20! Are the schools aware of this and prepared to take action?
Debbie Sullivan April 20, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Kim, I've heard about this too. I'm awaiting a response from Dr. McDermott and Principal McLaughlin.
FYI May 24, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I hope you are still not waiting for a response from either McDermott or McLAUGHlin. The schools have never done anything other than business as usual on 420. 420 has been around for many years.
Debbie Sullivan May 25, 2012 at 01:19 AM
N'prtr, I did not get a response. True that 420 has been around for quite awhile. This year there seemed to be -- at least from my perspective as a parent -- more chatter than usual about it. But in the end, unless others have heard differently, it was pretty quiet.
guess who June 30, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Father of Three, EastNpter, Are you on vacation have not heard from you lately? whats the matter you speechless on this subject?

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