Members of the Greenbrier Board of Education voted to expel a student after a recommendation was made by superintendent Scott Spainhour during a regular meeting May 8.
This is the fourth student expulsion this school year and the 25th in the past three academic years — nine students were expelled during the 2015-16 year and 12 during 2016-17.
Superintendent Spainhour told the Log Cabin Democrat these offenses were all drug-related — mostly prescription pills and marijuana.
He said numbers are also lower and “down this year,” after the district invested in a canine drug dog, which is handled by Stephen Ferguson, with the Greenbrier Police Department and resource officer with the district.
“That’s helped a lot,” Spainhour said. “Our number of offenses for drugs are way down right now.”
During the spring of 2016, is when he said the district saw the increased amount of infractions and board members asked “what if”.
Spainhour said their schools had canine units come in occasionally but the board asked about investing in a dog of their own to be there all the time.
So, he said, they purchased a dog for $7,500 from the Little Rock Canine Academy, that came from Mexico, and is trained to pick up heroin, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines; they started using him this school year.
Spainhour said they had an assembly with the students and talked about what the dog was there for as well as the fact that with him, they would be actively searching for contraband on campus … a preventative, intervention and deterrent type of investment.
“We’ve seen a significant decrease and we do use him,” he said. “I’m telling you, we have been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s going.”
Spainhour said the parent response he’s received has been supportive, as well.
“Most parents want to know … if something’s going on they want to know and especially if you don’t find anything [during searches when dog pick up on something previously there], [it’s] kind of a big warning, so they appreciate it,” he said.
Spainhour said Greenbrier School District is first and foremost an educational institution and their purpose is to educate, reason number one to combat the issue.
“You can’t educate somebody who’s under the influence,” he said.
Reason no. 2, Spainhour said, is because it’s dangerous for other kids.
“We want to be able to help kids at an early age to prevent any type of habit or serious incident with drugs and the kids know we love them and we appreciate them but they also know that we’re going to be tough on them as far as that goes and I think they see that animal as another, just another, intervention for them,” he said.
Spainhour said they do have other programs in place, educators who talk about it in their classes, counselors with resources, but at the end of the day, there comes a point in time where students have to realize there’s consequences to these actions.
“It’s a public educational facility and [we] just can’t have illegal substances in and out of there,” he said. “We know that it happens and it’s our job to keep it safe and do everything we can for prevention, so this [was] just one more layer, if you will.”
When a student is found with an illegal substance, or something that looks like it, a class four infraction according to the school handbook, Spainhour said a principal’s authority spans to give an automatic 10-suspension for that student.
From there, he said, the issue comes to him and he makes a recommendation for expulsion to the school board who vote on whether to follow through or not.
Spainhour said that student is expelled for a semester but, during that time, is given an opportunity through an online program to try and keep up with their core content like math, science and help is provided if they call up to the school and ask for it.
He said it can become frustrating at times but in any town, the school is just the picture of its community so if there’s problems “out there,” the same problems are going to be in the district.
“My idea is I want to make the school to be the safe place,” Spainhour said. “They may have to deal with it out there but I don’t want them to have to deal with it or try to bring it … we try to make it a safe place.”