By Cayden Royce
business manager & assistant photo
Drug-free, weapon-free zone. The kind of environment DHS administrators and police officer, Jairam Mahabir, strive to achieve.
“There are drugs here but not to the scale of larger cities,” Mahabir said.
Many students are unaware of the consequences that come with bringing illegal substances or weapons to school.
“If there is reasonable suspicion, there is no right to privacy on school property or campus,” Mahabir said. “Lots of kids don’t realize the parking lot counts as school property.”
Authorities like Mahabir can’t legally search a car without a warrant and reasonable cause. Administrators need only reasonable suspicion to perform a search.
It is possible to catch drug users at school through symptoms they exhibit.
“Sometimes they [students] smell, are vomiting or show physical characteristics, physical signs,” assistant principal Danielle Rutterbush said.
Mahabir agreed that students who aren’t living above the influence easily reveal themselves.
“Not only are they acting out of their norm, but acting different throws a red flag and brings suspicion,” Mahabir said. “Other students don’t want that in school, they’re not afraid to let us know.”
Statistics have shown improvements throughout the past five years with numbers of school suspensions for drugs and alcohol decreasing by more than fifty percent. 10 suspensions have occurred for this year so far, compared to the 31 in 09-10 school year. However, the number of suspensions have spiked at DHS in recent months. Assistant principal Ted Davis believes he knows why there has been such an increase.
“Seven suspensions in last three months have happened probably because of the unusually warm weather,” Davis said. “Students are more active on a warm, sunshiny day. More kids take lunchtime off.
When a bunch of kids get together, there’s a lot of peer pressure and that gets the best of them.”
But it’s not just marijuana that has been found in large quantities anymore.
“The biggest thing now is synthetics,” Davis said. “They are extremely dangerous and some of them are legal but by the time Congress bans what the make-up is of that synthetic in the drug, they just switch the element real quick or something like that.”
Alcohol is also found more often than not.
“Alcohol seems to be number one, people are taking things out of cabinets at home, parents don’t always look at liquor and so we’re seeing more with that,” Davis said.
Fewer suspensions have persisted since the introducing of drug dogs into Midland Public Schools. With help from Officer Mahabir, the trained K-9 units search DHS two to three times a year.
“If you have drugs at school, you’re going to get suspended, there is no ‘I’m sorry I made a mistake,’” Davis said.
But the K-9s themselves at times make mistakes in identifying the actual locker that contains contraband or anything that could help carry out the use of drugs.
“We may ask as many as six people ‘hey, can you come and open your locker?’” Davis said. “Because the dogs sit right in between the lockers and it might be that the scent is so strong or there’s a vent or current behind the lockers that kind of brings the smell into two or three lockers.”
As for weapons, school suspensions have stayed fairly constant since the shooting incident that happened in March 2007. This year, two students have been suspended for bringing what is considered to be a dangerous weapon to DHS. The school’s handbook deems “dangerous” as a firearm, dagger, dirk, stiletto, knife with a blade over three inches in length, a pocket knife opened by a mechanical device, iron bar etc. that is intended to cause bodily harm.
“Having a police officer in the school is a proactive result,” Mahabir said. “It helped fuel pushing officers in the schools.”
A student who has brought a potentially harmful weapon to school may display it and therefore get caught.
“They clip it on their pocket, walking down the hallway with it sticking out, but typically those are smaller knives,” Davis said.
Student Jeff* recently was suspended for bringing a knife over three inches to school.
“Their hands are tied when it comes to having weapons on school grounds,” Jeff said. “The knife I had on me was slightly longer than three inches and I voluntarily gave it up and had to look at the ten days of suspension, then I have to face the school board.”
After searching Jeff’s vehicle, administrators were forced to follow up with a no-tolerance policy expulsion hearing meeting to determine if being completely removed from school is appropriate.
“You have to watch your back because they put you under a microscope, you’re not allowed to drive to school anymore,” Jeff said. “They have the right to come and search you any point in the day.”
The confiscated weapon had to then be put in front of the prosecuting attorney.
“I wasn’t expelled but I’ve made up almost all the work so I can graduate on time, but having to do that and having to keep up with the school work is very challenging,” Jeff said.
His suspension counts toward his twelve allotted absences.
Administrators and Officer Mahabir make every effort to keep DHS a safe, drug-free, weapon-free atmosphere.
*Name has been changed.