SALEM - A surprise search by drug-sniffing dogs yielded a clean sweep at Salem Senior and Junior High School Thursday morning, with the exception of a very small amount of marijuana found in a student's vehicle.
"We didn't find anything in the school," Salem Police Patrolman Brad Davis said.
He referred to the marijuana found in the vehicle in the parking lot as shake, the loose leaves left over sometimes. No charges were filed, but he talked to the student about drug use and the student's parents were also notified.
While inside the school, the two dogs hit on a handful of lockers for the odor of marijuana, resulting in searches of four or five lockers, but with nothing found.
"The kids need to know that we're aware and we're out there looking," Superintendent Tom Bratten said.
This was the third year in a row for a surprise inspection and all three years the school passed. Searches have been done in the past, also. Bratten was the only school official who knew when the search would be done, none of the principals, teachers or students knew that Thursday was the day.
Bratten said he showed up about fifteen minutes before the appointed time and informed the principals the school was being placed on lockdown, then the law enforcement personnel showed up and led the dogs by all the lockers on both floors. The students were sent back to class when the search continued in the parking lot of both student and teacher vehicles.
"I was very pleased with the results. Everything went very smooth," he said.
Three Salem Police officers were accompanied by two agents from the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, a canine unit and handler from East Palestine Police and a canine unit and handler from the Drug Enforcement Administration in Youngstown. Davis said the dogs are trained to sniff out street drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, but they cannot smell for prescription drugs.
"We know that there are some youth who do abuse drugs. We want to keep the drugs out of our schools and keep the focus on education. We want a nice safe environment for all the students," he said.
The search is offered to the school administration every year and they accept the offer every year.
"I think it was successful. The students and the staff, the administration, they all cooperated and there were no problems," Davis said.
Bratten said it's important to the district that if there is anything found, they take care of it right away.
"That's something that's not tolerated in our buildings," he said.
Last week, a 17-year-old Salem High School school student was suspended from school by administrators and charged with delinquency by police after someone could smell the odor of marijuana on him and he voluntarily produced a small baggie of suspected marijuana. An expulsion hearing is pending.
Bratten noted that any drug offense at the school results in an automatic 10-day out-of-school suspension with a recommendation for expulsion. A hearing is then set to review the expulsion recommendation.
"We do what we can as legally as possible to try to control it," he said.
During the last school year, the board approved a new drug-testing policy for students in extracurricular activities. Bratten said the policy does not include random drug testing, but gives school officials the option to require a drug test if they have a reasonable suspicion of drug use by an athlete or student in extracurriculars.
"So far, so good," he said, saying they haven't had any cases since the new policy was enacted.