Drug Crackdown May Be Coming

School Superintendent Mike Ladner says that if it becomes necessary to strip search Hancock County school students strongly suspected of hiding drugs, so be it. ``They're pretty creative about how they hide their drugs,'' Ladner said Tuesday. The superintendent said he intended to wage an ``all-out war'' on drugs after a high school student overdosed on prescription sleeping pills before the Christmas holiday.

Ladner has the power to order a strip search of students if they are suspected of hiding drugs, according to the attorney general's office. While police are prohibited from performing strip searches without probable cause to believe they might find a weapon or drugs, school officials have to have only a reasonable suspicion. Jeff Klingfuss, a special assistant attorney general, said school officials have more flexibility because, ``You're trying to create an environment that's clear of drugs.'' Although any drugs that are discovered during a school search can be used in prosecuting a child, Klingfuss said youth courts are more likely to seek treatment for a child.

Ladner said he would strip search a student only if he was confident the student had drugs and there was a possibility that harm could be done, either to that child or to others. Before doing such a search, Ladner said, he would also consider the credibility of the information source and the discipline record of the accused student.