PORTSMOUTH — Citing the “proliferation of illegal substances, such as marijuana and other controlled substances among young people,” Portsmouth High School Principal Joseph Amaral announced Friday that police and drug-sniffing dogs will sweep the school to make sure that no illegal drugs are found on campus.
The announcement was made via an e-mail Mr. Amaral sent to parents Friday afternoon, according to local blogger and journalist John McDaid, one of the recipients.
“In order to maintain a substance-free high school, we are coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus,” Mr. Amaral stated in the e-mail. “These fully trained K-9 units will be used to do periodic searches throughout the remainder of the school year. K-9 units will not engage with students.”
The e-mail does not indicate when the sweeps will start, nor how often they will take place.
On this blog, Hard Deadlines, Mr. McDaid expressed reservations about the decision to have police and K-9 units sweep the school for drugs.
“While the goal of maintaining a drug-free school may be laudable, I have concerns about turning our educational institution into a space patrolled by multiple police forces and K-9 units,” Mr McDaid wrote. “It seems disruptive and not conducive to the environment of collaboration and trust that our Portsmouth PD had worked so hard to achieve. I can accept the notion of a school resource officer, but this feels like it goes way beyond that.
Ray D. Davis, coordinator of the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition, defended the action in a post on Mr. McDaid’s Facebook page.
“I commend Principal Amaral's approach to the complex issues of substance abuse prevention. There continues to be more positive and recognized effective efforts in the Portsmouth schools to keep our students safe, to foster an atmosphere of support for those students who need it and of dealing with issues,” Mr. Davis stated. “Working closely with the community and the Portsmouth Police Department to address these issues is a welcomed and smart approach to make our schools and community an active partner in dealing with Rhode Island's serious substance abuse issues.”
Mr. Davis said while the community can and should be doing more to battle substance abuse, he found nothing wrong with the decision to bring in the K-9 units.
“If there are drugs the dogs will find them and the school and police will deal with individuals involved in the proper manner. If there isn't — good news. The point is made that no drugs belong in Portsmouth schools,” Mr. Davis stated.
We will update this story as we learn more.
Read the e-mail
Here’s the entire e-mail from Mr. Amaral, which Mr. McDaid shared on his blog:
Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:
Portsmouth High School consists of a community of learners who attain 21st century skills and prepare for career and college. We have the fastest growing number of students who select rigorous Advanced Placement courses while also balancing the whole student by offering a plethora of athletic and club activities for students to explore. Our students are well served with a dedicated faculty who continue their professional development in numerous curriculum areas throughout the school year as well as in the summer.
Several members of our faculty have spent time engaging in professional development with students as part of Patriots Committed. This group of students and adults provide chemical free activities and ongoing substance abuse prevention and health information to our students and community in hopes of students gaining optimal performance in all that they do. Our school continues to implement a positive behavior intervention program called MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support). Our MTSS committee has organized several programs to reward students for making good choices that contribute to a positive learning community. “Pride Bucks” have been implemented as recognition, by their teachers, for students demonstrating these behaviors. Teachers also recommend students as “Students of the Month” to the Principal for a celebratory breakfast. We continue to reflect and revamp our discipline code to support a balanced approach to respect and appropriate behavior.
As you may know, we have invited many organizations and groups to provide knowledge and guidance to our students on how to be safe and drug free. The State Attorney General’s program has come to our school to share with students real life stories and how we can help those who are afflicted with drug abuse. In addition, we recently hosted the F.A.C.T. program (Fostering Alternative Choices & Thinking) through the Department of Corrections for all of the Freshmen and Sophomore students in an effort to help them reflect about the best choices for themselves and how substance use/abuse will impact their life choices. We have also held assemblies and events to give students the tools to prevent bullying and intolerant behavior. This effort requires the support of the entire community including parents, teachers and students.
We are concerned with the proliferation of illegal substances, such as marijuana and other controlled substances among young people. In order to maintain a substance-free high school, we are coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus. These fully trained K-9 units will be used to do periodic searches throughout the remainder of the school year. K-9 units will not engage with students.
Finally, if you have concerns about your child regarding substance abuse, our Student Assistance Counselor, Kelly O’Loughlin, is available to provide additional support options. Her email contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org . Working together we can make PHS an even better learning community.
Joseph N. Amaral
Principal - Portsmouth High School