In response to results from a stakeholder safety survey, Derby Public Schools will implement new efforts to discourage drug use and vaping at secondary schools.
District Safety and Security Officer Matt Liston presented those initiatives Monday to the Derby Board of Education. They include K-9 drug searches at Derby High and both middle schools, as well as an educational program to deter vaping.
“It looks like it’s an enforcement effort on the front side, but what we’re trying to get across is a prevention effort,”said Liston, who was hired for the position after 27 years with the Derby Police Department. “If they know we’re going to do that, they’re not going to bring [drugs] in.”
Liston said he plans to have two searches at each secondary school this year — one per semester. Parents will be notified of the searches via phone and Skylert, but exact dates will not be shared.
The district has not performed K-9 searches in at least 10 years, said Liston, who became the district’s first school resource officer (SRO) in 1997.
Derby High has no lockers, meaning drug searches will be performed on their backpacks. Students will be asked to line their backpacks along the halls and will be kept in classrooms while dogs sniff their bags.
“Kids will actually never see the dogs,” Liston said.
At Derby Middle and Derby North, the dogs will perform standard locker searches.
If a dog suspects drugs in a specific bag or locker, Liston said the school’s principal will search that suspected item and both bags/lockers on either side of it.
Board Member Matthew Joyce asked what would happen if a search dog mistakenly suspects drugs in someone’s bag or locker.
“And if nothing’s found, you just put it back and don’t worry about it?” Joyce asked.
“Correct,” Liston responded.
He said law enforcement agencies document and record the results of K-9 searches, including false flags.
“If it is a false positive, they want to know about it, too,” Liston said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol will assist with the K-9 searches in order to speed up the process.
Results from the 2018-2019 safety and security survey were shared in July with the school board. Though the results indicated most stakeholders feel safe in Derby schools, respondents frequently suggested the district “address the drug problem.”
Twenty-one of the 31 expulsions last year in Derby Public Schools were drug-related.
Vaping also part of the problem
In addition to maintaining enforcement from last year, Liston said the district would like to make new educational efforts to discourage vaping at secondary schools.
Students who are caught vaping on school premises are suspended for three days, but they will be allowed to come back sooner if they complete an hour-long, online educational program called VapeEducate.
“We think it’s important that we do an education piece as well, so we’re not just doing enforcement,” Liston said. “We’re also educating not only the students, but the parents as well.”
Liston said the City of Derby is using proceeds from a tobacco and alcohol tax grant to cover half the cost of the VapeEducate software.
The district’s move comes as vaping-related deaths are grabbing headlines across the nation, including Kansas’ first confirmed case — which involved a 50-year-old man with underlying health issues.
In nearby Goddard, the USD 265 Board of Education voted Monday to authorize several lawsuits against manufacturers and other members of the e-cigarette industry. The Times-Sentinel reports it could perhaps be the first litigation of its kind in the United States.
Last year, Liston said SROs at Derby High School sent home a flyer about e-cigarettes and vaping that yielded results.
“We saw a drastic reduction just with sending out that flyer,” he said.
Board Member Joyce suggested the flyers be sent out more frequently.
“If you did it once a month or sent it out through email or Skylert, just so that it’s a constant presence instead of once a year, you might even see those cases go down even further."