Local K-9 units used in HC response to increase in student drug use

By Teo Soler – Horizon Business Manager and Contributing Writer & Kendra Burkey – Horizon Advisor

On Tuesday, five drug dogs took to the Hesston College parking lots in the first-ever random air sniffs conducted on campus. The “random sniff” resulted in some “hits,” indicating that the dog detected the odor of drugs or drug paraphernalia.

While the police were not involved in the next step of the process, the Hesston College student development team followed standard protocol.

“The air sniff did result in the need for follow-up conversations,” said Juli Winter, Dean of Students.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had K-9 units on campus. In fact, administrators can bring them to campus at any time “if specific concerns come up.”

But these random and coordinated sniffs are the result of a proposal student development made to Hesston’s Administrative Council in the fall. This is a new, proactive measure taking place periodically throughout the school year, Winter says.

Why now? Winter says the initiative is “a response to an increase in the amount of drug usage on and off campus and part of Hesston’s pledge to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”

But it wasn’t altogether a surprise. Winter notified the student body of the new initiative and partnership with the Hesston Police Department to “bring a specially trained dog onto our campus to deter the presence of illegal substances on our campus” via email Jan. 11.

This new initiative triggered mixed reactions among the student body. Sophomore Kate Kilmer sees it as a necessary evil.

“Students might be mad about it but I think that it is for the greater good of everyone,” she said.

Though she acknowledges the fact that it “invades privacy,” Kate emphasizes on the positive outcome of the policy: “There will be less drugs on campus.”

Sophomore, Angus Siemens called the initiative “intense.”

“This will probably reduce the amount of drugs on campus but won’t stop it completely,” he said.

Freshman Jonathan Stratton shares this view.

“I don’t think it is necessary,” he said. A lot of the kids who get caught here are from states where it is actually legal.”

But that’s irrelevant, according to Resident Director Michael Oyer. He emphasizes his duty to keep the campus safe.

“Marijuana is illegal in the state of Kansas,” said Oyer. “It does not benefit our campus and threatens the good functioning and security of the campus. It is normal to enforce those rules.”

If students get caught in possession of marijuana, RD’s are required to call the police and the consequences may vary. Police are not contacted if the student tests positive for use but is not in possession. First-time perpetrators often receive support through the use of accountability partners, an online education program meant to teach them about the harms of marijuana, or other individualized consequences to encourage safer choices. Penalties for use or possession become heavier with multiple offenses.

Harvey County is also taking actions to keep the area safe and drug-free. In fact, after months of investigation and several arrests at Newton High, the Newton Police Department released a statement Jan. 17 detailing their confiscation of 75 grams of marijuana and 97 dosage units of prescription drugs.

“Our goal is to protect the safe and healthy learning environment for Newton students,” Police Chief Eric Murphy said in a KAKE news report. “Youth are faced with many challenges at school, and the peer pressure to use drugs should not be one of them.”

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