New initiatives implemented to address school safety

UCS requires high school students to wear lanyards, Utica High first UCS school inspected by local police K9 units


Jim Malczewski, Shelby Twp. PD, courtesy photo

K9 Morpheus was one of two Shelby Township police dogs that searched school property Dec. 6. A total of nine dogs inspected the school.

Adjustments announced

New safety procedures are constantly being introduced and enforced, and Utica Community Schools took its next step in ensuring the safety of students.

On Nov. 29, principal Tom Lietz made an announcement to the school, informing students that as of Dec. 4 students must wear a lanyard with their school ID card.

“You’ve all heard grumbling about this, but it’s going to happen. I wanted to make sure that we’re being up front and talking about it and give you guys time to ask questions and get things in order,” Lietz said in an announcement over the public address system. “Starting Tuesday, Dec. 4, we are going to be requiring that all students wear lanyards with their ID badges in school at all times.”

In addition to wearing lanyards, Lietz also announced that the school would be working with local law enforcement to conduct inspections using police dogs. This search took place on Dec. 6.

“I don’t think this is a bad idea,” senior Andrew Slanec said. “I think you can do whatever you want, just don’t do it here.”

ID cards on display

As of Dec. 4, students in all UCS high schools are required to wear their ID cards on a lanyard around their necks at all times. Students that do not have their ID must purchase on for $5 in the main office. Although many students opposed the new rules, some teachers looked for other opportunities to use these lanyards to their advantage.

“Since the student IDs have bar codes, I’ve been able to get a bar code scanner for attendance,” teacher Rebecca Watterson said. “I can use it to see who’s here, who isn’t, and who needs an ID. If there’s another purpose for the IDs rather than identification, it may be more meaningful to students.”

The media center has also used the new lanyard procedure to their advantage, changing procedures for monitoring laptops.

“As students check out a laptop from the Media Center, they will switch their IDs for these passes,” media office clerk Suzanne Hathon said to staff in an email, “so you may see students wearing these lanyards instead of their IDs.”

K9 units search building

While the first visit from the police K9 units was announced for training purposes, some students were surprised when the parking lots were searched. However, Lietz’s email and announcements clearly stated that “school property” would be searched for prohibited materials and substances.

Classrooms and halls went into lockdown during the search, and panic seemed to spread throughout the student body, even for those who had nothing to hide. Several students were asked to open their cars to be searched, after a dog marked their cars.

“I was nervous and mad that they thought that–out of all people–my car would contain drugs,” senior Nathan Montalbano said. “I was very glad when they found nothing, because I didn’t have anything to hide.”

Police dogs are trained to smell a large variety of drug paraphernalia. According to Lietz, these substances include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and even vape juice. Students are still concerned, however, that they’ll be penalized for having pain killers.

“Let’s say you’re a student and you hurt yourself and you’re prescribed a mild opioid,” Lietz said. “By process, your parents should come in and say you need to take this medication and leave it in the office. But let’s say they didn’t, and a dog tagged your bag and we found that in there. Am I going to suspend you for that? No. I’m going to call a parent in and tell them they need to fill out a medical form, because it’s the right way.”