By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The way John Honey sees it, random drug searches at McNary High School are a win for everyone.
The third-year principal started what he calls police dog exhibitions last fall. He partners with local law enforcement agencies to bring in police dogs to do searches. Honey emphasized the idea isn’t to find drugs and kick students out of school. Instead, the idea is to keep drugs away from the school setting while giving police dogs real-world searching experience.
“You know, 99.9 percent of our kids aren’t doing anything wrong,” Honey said. “They’re all cool with it and their parents are excited because we’re being proactive. Police are happy. It’s all good. It’s a win-win-win.”
Honey started the program after getting positive feedback from various community groups, ranging from police to Rotary to parents. His idea was to use the school’s “beautiful” relationship with the Keizer Police Department as a basis.
“It’s not so much a drug search as much as it is a training exercise for local law enforcement,” Honey said. “With drug detection animals, one of the things they need is a wide variety of training grounds or exercises. What more fluid environment could you find than a high school? You have 2,000 kids, lots of movement and a zillion places to hide things.”
A recent exhibition led to a police dog finding a small amount of marijuana in a locker. For Honey, the end goal is to have students realize school is not the place for drugs.
“I’m not particularly interested in finding kids who are in possession of drugs or alcohol,” he said. “My goal is not to catch them and kick them out. The goal is to maintain a safe and positive learning environment at school so the kids can focus on what is important.”
The exhibitions were initially announced well ahead of time and have since progressed to being announced just a few minutes ahead of time. Honey hopes that means students are less willing to bring any drugs to school.
“Nobody blinks, which is awesome,” Honey said. “There’s not a parent who’s going to say, ‘No, I don’t want my kid’s school to be safe.’ There’s no kid that’s going to say, ‘You’re violating my rights by searching for drugs at school because that’s where I hide them.’”
Honey feels the program has been a success, especially in terms of students.
“It really had the desired impact and effect on kids immediately,” Honey said. “They were talking about it. That’s all I want. I want them talking about it and being reluctant to bring drugs to school.”
With drugs being found in a locker during a recent search, the shift comes in figuring out school jurisdiction versus police work once that does happen.
“We are now working with the Keizer Police Department on a protocol and response,” Honey said. “When do the police step in and when do administrators step out? We want to be fair to students, but we also don’t want to get in the way of police.”
Once a protocol is decided upon, Honey said the next step can happen.
“Once we have a process in place, then we can go to our colleagues in Salem,” he said. “We will work with the school district. If we develop a real process that someone else can replicate, I think it would be a great. It’s something probably every high school principal thinks about or talks about.”