Police work to guide students away from drugs

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Editor’s Note: The recent overdose deaths of two Gillespie County males has added fire to the topic of how to fight drugs in school. The following is an interview with Lt. Linda Lively, the Fredericksburg Police Department (FPD) officer who oversees cases with juveniles, and Patrolman Chris Ayala, the officer assigned to the Fredericksburg High School (FHS) campus.

 

By Lisa Treiber-Walter —

 

Just a few weeks ago in his criminal justice classroom, Fredericksburg Police Department Patrolman Chris Ayala taught his students using examples from years spent enforcing the law in South Texas “where hell was just rampant,” he said.

“Unfortunately, now, I don’t have to revert back to my home areas. Now, I can say ‘It has happened here,’” he said.

Since the unrelated, accidental overdose deaths on April 20 by FHS student Sammy Herrera, 16, and on May 8 by 2010 Harper High School graduate Josh Harper, 20, Ayala’s frame of reference has gone local.

“These deaths were hard to grasp,” whereas previous losses of youths from driving while texting or reckless driving were hard to accept, but at least were more fathomable, Ayala said.

As a result, a grieving community is noticeably on edge and many of those shocked by recent events have spoken out, looking to find fault.

 “There’s no one person to blame here. You can’t blame the police. You can’t blame the school. You can’t blame the parents,” Ayala said, adding he takes exception to those who knock the work he and the school administrators have done the past 10 years to combat teen drug usage.

“There are a lot of schools who have resource officers. But, our guys are not resource officers. We have actual police officers assigned to the schools,” Lively explained, saying that Ayala covers high school, while a second patrolman is stationed at Fredericksburg Middle School.

 “What you will see is an undivision between the schools and police here,” Ayala said, adding that it takes both working in tandem to make any headway in the fight against drugs.

“On a weekly basis, we have kids walking in and telling me about everything from cigarettes to ‘Hey, they’re doing something else,’” Ayala said.

He protects his informants’ identities because, if they fear retaliation, he won’t have their assistance in the future, he said.

If the tips he receives are sincere, he takes that information to the appropriate school administrator, who then directs him on how to proceed.

“I have to work on probable cause. School staff get to work on suspicion,” he said, explaining that administrators have much more flexibility in their approach.

If administrators direct Ayala to search a student, then he will have that person discreetly removed from class and searched or questioned. Ayala doesn’t search female students, but follows procedures to tell if they are “holding” illegal substances.

For more on this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!

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