TAPS not alone in dealing with issues

By Per Peterson

After a routine inspection in the Tracy Area High School parking lot on Wednesday, Dec. 13, school personnel were informed of a possible issue after a safety dog “hit on” a couple of vehicles that contained questionable items.

“When they went through the parking lot, the dog did ‘hit on’ things,” said Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson. “There were things found in some vehicles, but there was nothing that resulted in any disciplinary consequences at all. Everything that was found was substantiated and approved by parents. Nothing was of any danger, nothing was illegal to the extent that a student required any discipline.”

The dogs, which are brought in at random times during the school year from Interquest Detection Canines of Duluth as a preventative measure, are trained to find drugs (including prescriptions), alcohol, tobacco, and gun powder and other weapons-related items. It’s a practice that has been going on at TAHS for years, even before Anderson became superintendent.

“We don’t want to find anything,” Anderson said matter-of-factly. “The thing to remember is that they ‘hit on’ prescription drugs. If a student had some type of allergy medicine in their car, for instance, the dog would ‘hit on’ that.”

The school district’s policy requires all prescription medications to be kept in the nurse’s office.

“If it’s a prescribed medicine, it needs to be under lock-and-key,” TAHS Principal Kathy Vondracek said.

Data privacy laws prevent the school from divulging names of students who may have been associated with any alleged transgressions on school grounds. Any detailed information that may link a student to a possible policy violation is also privileged.

“We’re not out here to embarrass kids or judge them — we’re here to help them,” Anderson said. “We involve their parents, police, the hospital, if need be. And, we want to send a message that certain things aren’t allowed or tolerated in school. We want to help the kids.”

Tracy Area Public Schools (elementary and high school) conduct five fire drills, five lock down drills — both hard and soft lock downs — and one tornado drill periodically throughout the school year — all mandated by the state. Beyond that, the high school also conducts a variety of drills and searches to deter students from using and bringing drugs and alcohol on campus.

For more on this article, see this week’s Tracy Headlight-Herald.