Editor's Notebook: Dogs don't dig deep enough

By Polly Keary, Editor
Uniformed, armed police with dogs on leashes going through the parking lot, sniffing for drugs, could be a possibility at Monroe High School.
That is because a study found that Monroe teens are more depressed than average, think parents and police are more lax on drugs in Monroe than in other places, and the number of kids who say they intend to use drugs is up.
Those are all risk factors for teen drug use.
Drug-sniffing dogs might reduce the amount of drugs being trundled through the high school by either personal users or by teen dealers (or by dope-doing staff. Don't scoff. I've been open over the years about my identity as a recovering addict. Before I left the small town in which I grew up, I found myself at a party doing cocaine with a third-grade teacher who later died of an overdose.)
And drug dogs are likely to send a message to kids that Monroe parents, schools and cops are serious about keeping drugs out of schools.
But deterring drug possession at school only addresses one of the many hydra heads of drug use and teens. The ultimate goal of any drug policy is necessarily to stop kids from doing drugs. And searches won't do much to get us there.
Here's what I know about teens and drug use; kids at high risk for drug abuse aren't likely to be deterred by the things that would deter a rational person.
My position is informed: I was a drug-using teen.
Drug using teens are remarkably resistant not only to fear of getting caught, but far more serious risks than suspension from school.
There was no shortage of drug abuse education in my school. As a sixth grader I learned all about the common street drugs, their effects and their risks.
Drug abuse education, however, is based on a faulty premise; that all kids want what is best for themselves.
It's true that a healthy, well-adjusted and happy child will hear that drugs can result in cardiac arrest, lifelong addiction, lost teeth, criminal records, jail, death, seizures, or what have you, and will be wonderfully deterred.
A suicidal kid will not. A critically depressed kid is looking for relief right now, and is willing to risk a lot to get it. When I say a lot, I don't mean suspension or embarrassment. I mean jail. I mean death.
I attended a school in Snohomish for a month when I was in the ninth grade. While there, I bought a bag of weed from a girl who was also able to get cocaine, had I wanted it.
Had drug sniffing dogs been on the campus, here's what we would have done; we'd have stepped off campus to do the deal. Kids are clever enough to figure all sorts of stash spots, houses of friends near campus or other strategies to get and use dope.
So one thing is for sure, drug sniffing dogs won't solve the problem of kids doing drugs. It might deter kids who were on the fence about it, and that's good. And it might help kids to not have to share bathrooms with a couple of students standing in a stall trading drugs for money.
I'm troubled that the study found Monroe to have higher levels of teen depression than other places. And the concern that it might lead to drug use is well founded. But I hope the community has a greater response in mind than merely ramping up enforcement of drug laws.
The very best case scenario that comes from using drug dogs in schools is that a depressed kid might be less likely to easily procure drugs while on campus.
But what can we do to actually help those depressed kids?
Depressed kids do other things besides illegal drugs. They are violent sometimes. They drop out sometimes. They vandalize things sometimes. They have sex way too young. They don't use protection when they do. They sniff (perfectly legal) magic markers and butane. They drink. Their grades fall off. They commit suicide sometimes.
Whatever the school district decides to do about dogs, I hope they try to address the risk factors that they think might lead kids to consider doing drugs in the first place.
If they succeed, they'll solve a lot more problems than just drugs.


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