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LEXINGTON - Dogs will search sometime soon for drugs at Lexington Junior and High School.

They've searched after school before, but future searches will take place when students are in class.

Superintendent Brent McArdle said he doesn't favor daytime searches, but the school board deferred to the police chief's request and changed the policy in January.

"In the past, we've allowed the dogs, but it was after school," said McArdle. "My policy is they not come during the day. I think it's disruptive and unnecessary," he said.

Lexington Police Chief Spencer Johansen argued, however, that daytime searches are more likely to catch someone selling drugs and reduce the temptation to bring them to school. His opinion is backed by the McLean County Sheriff's Department, which conducts daytime drug searches at schools throughout the county.

"I think it is more of a deterrent," Johansen said.

McArdle said the district's citizens advisory council seemed to agree with him, but in the end they and the school board accepted Johansen's recommendation.

"We're amateurs and they are professionals and we will leave that to them," McArdle said.

"It was a good discussion," he said of the meeting.

The superintendent said he hasn't received any feedback from parents following the decision.

Johansen said he has noticed a gradual increase in drug-related incidents over the last five years. This prompted the police chief to go to the school board and ask for a change, he said.

"We're going to do whatever it takes to keep drugs out of our school and our community," Johansen said. "It's a full-time job."

Reacting to trends is important to improving public safety, he said. If police start seeing an increase in accidents at an intersection, for example, they would recommend installing a stoplight, he said.

Public reaction in the city of about 1,800 people has been positive so far, the chief said. About 570 students attend the school.

It is standard for most schools to have the searches during the day, said McLean County Deputy Sheriff Glen Wagner. After-school searches are "very, very uncommon," he said.

Wagner said he believes the searches, which are scheduled randomly do make a difference.

"The whole idea is to keep the campus free of drugs," he said. "If you are going fishing, you go to the fishing hole where the fish are, not in a muddy puddle."

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