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As an elected trustee of the Kern High School District during 2008-09, I proposed a canine drug deterrence program that would utilize a professional private company as do hundreds of California school districts, including Fresno Unified, Clovis Unified, Delano Union, Bakersfield Christian and Garces High. At that time the district administration was very resistant and ultimately instituted a halfhearted program conducted by a county agency, which consisted of a total of one dog visit per campus in a two-year period. Then it was abandoned.
You would think that the KHSD board of trustees and administration would embrace a proven comprehensive drug deterrence program that reduces expulsions and saves money. However, Don Carter, the KHSD superintendent, seems to have misplaced priorities. During the initial discussions, he was most concerned that the unionized employees would object to any drug dogs being allowed near the staff parking areas or the lounges. In 2008-09, the KHSD had approximately 1,200 student expulsions, including 350 to 500 for drug-related violations. If each expulsion investigation consumes at least $500 of district resources including staff time, overhead and hearing panel members, then the cost is $600,000 annually.
In a typical month, the KHSD's hearing panels recommend that 239 students be expelled, including 63 for drug violations. An additional 67 students will be recommended for suspended expulsions determined at the school site level. A comprehensive professional canine drug prevention program administered by a specialized private company costing $30,000 per year can be implemented at a minimal to net zero cost if a 5 percent drop in cases can be realized. Here's another way to analyze this: The district has 38,000 students and receives $7,000 per student annually from the state. If we can keep just five kids from dropping out of school, the program has paid for itself.
The first office sign you see when entering many of our high school administrative offices is for the Kern County Probation Department. We need to be proactive and develop a plan to help keep drugs and other contraband from coming into the schools in the first place and not just react in the same old ways to a persistent problem.
Delano High was able to achieve a 50 percent reduction in its expulsion rate by utilizing a canine drug deterrence program. These programs have been successfully utilized at thousands of schools nationwide for 25 years. Why not in the Kern High School District?
Ken Mettler of Bakersfield is a former Kern High School District trustee.