Taft High School to use dogs to sniff out drugs in lockers
by BRIAN NADIG
A surprise visit by drug-sniffing dogs is planned for Taft High School this semester following an increase in drug-related incidents at the school in January.
The plan was announced at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. Taft used dogs to check lockers twice last school year when students were not present, but plans call for security personnel to conduct the next search while students are in their classrooms.
Eleven drug-related misconduct reports were issued in January compared to four in November, according to a disciplinary report given to LSC members.
Taft principal Mary Kay Cappitelli said after the meeting that having the students in the building during the search should serve as a deterrent. “They’ll think twice before bringing drugs back into the building again,” Cappitelli said.
The students will not be allowed into the hallways during the search, and padlocks will be placed on lockers where the dog indicates the presence of drugs and on the adjoining ones. After the dogs have gone through the school, the lockers that were padlocked will be searched.
Cappitelli said that students will face disciplinary action if drugs are found in their locker. Some council members asked if the scent of marijuana could be on a locker even if the student assigned to the locker had not put drugs in it.
Dean Sam Duarte said that when the second drug search was conducted last school year, there were 18 “hits” by the dogs, representing a significant decrease from the first search. Students caught with drugs face a minimum 5-day suspension, and a 45-day suspension may be sought for students who are suspected of dealing drugs on school grounds, he said.
Also at the meeting, Duarte reported that school personnel have increased bathroom checks due to concerns about students smoking in them. A parent said at a recent LSC meeting that her daughter finds the school’s bathrooms too dirty and smoky to use.
Cappitelli said that the bathrooms are clean at the start of each school day and that students should do their part to keep them clean. She has asked the school newspaper, Taft Today, to print photographs showing how the condition of the bathrooms changes throughout the day.
It also was reported at the meeting that students are raising money to plant a tree in honor of Taft Academic Center student Luke Spallone, who recently died at the age of 12.
It also was reported that Taft is offering all students a free “grab and go” breakfast, which is being funded through a grant. The breakfast includes a snack such as a nutrition bar or fruit which students can save for later.
The council also has asked the Taft Alumni Association to have a representative at each LSC meeting to help with Taft’s fund-raising and outreach efforts. The association has about 16,000 members, and it inducts graduates into its hall of fame every 3 years, association second vice president Frank Heyer said.
The next LSC meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, and the Taft High School Parent Teacher Student Association has scheduled a general meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the school.
LSC chairman Ted Pirpiris reported after the meeting that about $6 million in safety improvements are planned for the railroad closing at Nagle and Avondale avenues, where a Taft student was severely injured when he was struck by a train several years ago. Many Taft students cross the tracks on their way to a bus stop at Nagle and Northwest Highway. Alderman Mary O’Connor’s office recently notified the school of the planned upgrades.