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LEXINGTON - School administrators and the town police department have reached an agreement bringing drug-sniffing dogs back to Lexington High School for the first time since a school fire four years ago. Unlike previous agreements, this one permits the dogs in the building during school hours.

"We've never had dogs in the school during school hours because some kids are afraid of them and allowing dogs in school can be very disruptive," said Superintendent Brent McArdle. "However, we want to make our school drug-free and will cooperate with law enforcement to make sure."

Police Chief Spencer Johansen proposed the agreement at a recent school board meeting after noticing an increase in drug-related arrests. Information from the suspects convinced him the dogs needed to return and should operate during school hours.

"We used to use drug dogs after school hours, but even if a dog detected the presence of drugs, we might not find any because the drugs were taken back home," said Johansen.

Although a drug sweep of the school parking lot in November revealed drugs in a car and a student's purse, McArdle says drug violations will not be addressed with a "one size fits all" approach.

"If the dogs detect drugs, we will sit down and talk to the student to get the whole story," said McArdle. "Kids do share clothes, so it's possible that a student borrowed a jacket from a friend who used drugs, or they could have been at a party where drugs were present but they didn't use any."

Board member Bruce Klein also said the students are so trusting that they have rigged their lockers to not lock. Although the convenience makes storing their books quicker, Klein believes drugs could easily be planted out of revenge or to implicate someone else.

Although the school board didn't have to vote on the arrangement, as school policy addressed using the dogs, Klein is glad McArdle agreed to the changes because it's time to allow the dogs to search during school hours.

"From what we heard in the presentation, I think that drugs are more prevalent now than when I came on the board 15 years ago and even five years ago," said Klein. "Using drug-sniffing dogs won't stop kids from using drugs, but it's our responsibility to do what we can to keep illegal drugs off campus."

Johansen said the police department will work with Glen Wagner, a McLean County deputy who uses his dog Lazer in drug surveillance and manhunts, to conduct the searches. Wagner will coordinate the timing with high school Principal Rick Baker.

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