Watson Chapel scanned by dogs

A Jefferson County sheriff's office vehicle is shown in this August 2019 photo.
A Jefferson County sheriff's office vehicle is shown in this August 2019 photo.

Watson Chapel Junior High and Senior High schools partnered with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit for a thorough security check Feb. 22 utilizing three canine teams and a variety of officers.

The joint effort aimed to deter drugs and weapons within the school premises, ultimately solidifying the safety of all students and staff. The presence of the highly trained dogs created anticipation and perhaps even anxiety among students as they observed the comprehensive search unfold, according to a news release.

In hallways and classrooms, students and staff stood aside as the canines meticulously sniffed around desks, lockers, and any potential hiding spots. Assistant Principal Reginald D. Forte remarked on the operation, noting that many were surprised when officers knocked on classroom doors, directing staff and students to exit the room as the dogs searched every corridor for drugs and weapons.

The dogs' keen sense of smell was put to the test as they worked through every nook and cranny, guided by their handler. The dogs are trained to detect a variety of prohibited contraband such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, vapor odors, and firearms. The outcome of this unannounced security sweep was noteworthy, as no drugs were found on either campus.

This achievement stands as a testament to recent efforts to better ensure the safety and security of the entire Watson Chapel School District community, officials say.

"We are taking back our school to ensure ALL of our students and staff are safe," junior high Principal Jeremy Vincent said.

"The element of surprise was a strategic choice to realistically assess the school's environment without giving anyone the opportunity to alter behavior in anticipation of the check," high school Principal Henry Webb said.

The collaborative effort received accolades from within the school community. Dr. Cortez Henderson, a civics teacher at the high school, commended the administration for their proactive approach.

"I want to thank our Administration for the drug-sniffing dogs that were used to ensure additional security for the students and staff. I feel safer as a result," Henderson stated.

The use of these trained dogs added an extra layer of assurance, helping to detect any illicit substances that may have been present.

"Having community stakeholders buy into the safety and security of our schools is a demonstration of unity in doing what's best for schools," Assistant Principal Dr. Erica Mauldin said.

Superintendent Tom Wilson and Assistant Superintendent Dee Davis reported on the success of the operation, highlighting the smooth execution and positive outcome. They expressed their pride and emphasized that this security check was just one step toward the ongoing responsibility of proactively ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of all students and staff members.

The collaboration between Watson Chapel leaders and the Jefferson County sheriff's office K-9 Unit underscores the importance of community partnerships in safeguarding educational environments. By working together seamlessly, they have demonstrated a commitment to creating a secure setting where students can learn and thrive without the threat of drugs or other illicit substances and weapons.

The success of this joint effort serves as a reminder of the significance of vigilance and proactive measures in maintaining school safety, according to the news release.

"Our priority is the safety of our students, and we will continue to take all necessary steps to uphold that commitment." Vincent said.

As the Watson Chapel school community celebrates this achievement, it also looks forward to continued cooperation between the schools and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit to ensure that Watson Chapel remains a safe and secure environment for all who enter its doors.

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