Some Union public school teachers, nurses and administrators are better now at recognizing the signs of drug impairment.
Union High School and Union Middle School staff members, along with some members of the state juvenile office and children’s division, were given training by Union police officers to better determine if a student is on drugs.
Union patrolman Dan Penrod said the training is intended to better inform the teachers on the signs and symptoms of impaired students.
“Everybody knows what drunk looks like, but to articulate someone who is on a stimulant is more difficult,” he said.
Both Penrod and Detective Sgt. John Biser conducted the training Aug. 6-7 in the UHS Fine Arts Center. Both officers are a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).
“We wanted to get everyone on the same page,” Penrod added. “We explained where law enforcement comes in, as well as nurses, administrators and the children’s division.”
The training was informational for the participants, including demonstration on field sobriety tests.
“We covered the effects and vital signs that drugs would have on students,” Penrod said. “With the training, teachers will know if (a student’s) pupils are constricted that he’s on something so they can refer to school nurse — obviously the first issue is child safety, but beyond that what does district do?”
He explained that if a nurse or administrator believes a student is on drugs, the police are notified.
“If they are found to be impaired, it is not to hard to believe drugs are close by or they are in possession of drugs,” Penrod said. “That is where we come in.”
He further added that the entities involved are making efforts to be proactive.
“We don’t have a significant drug problem but other areas are seeing it,” he said. “Our district and police department aren’t willing to just sit by.”
Penrod said the training was based on the DRE program that many officers take part in.
DREs use several indicators to determine if someone is under the influence of drugs, including pupil size, horizontal and vertical gaze nystagmus, blood pressure, muscle tone, injection sites and other examinations and evaluators.
In order to become a DRE, officers must pass an extensive nine-day course The class work is followed by extensive cumulative testing.
DRE students can be kicked out at any time if they are not performing up to standard, and students must receive 100 percent on the end of course test.
Sometimes drug users will “poly drug” use and combine drugs that affect pupils and other indicators in different ways.
For example, some people take a sedative and a stimulant at the same time. Both types of drugs affect pupils and other indicators differently, which is one reason the class is so extensive.
During classes, officers are required to test DRE curriculum on people. They must perform a minimum number of tests under the watch of an instructor.
Officers conduct these tests with volunteers, but also in the field.
Oftentimes people who are under the influence of drugs may not be issued citations for driving under the influence because there is not a DRE to identify the drug use.
He said not everyone who is driving under the influence is intentionally breaking the law.
Not only do DREs remove unsafe drivers from the streets, they also assist with the prosecution of those driving under the influence.
There are about 10,000 DREs worldwide, and it is estimated that half of those are in the United States.
Because six of the city’s 21 officers are DRE officers there is always at least one on duty. The number of Union officers trained in drug recognition also has made it easier for other Union officers to identify drug use.
Other communities in the area will bring suspects who may be under the influence of drugs to the Union police station to be evaluated by a DRE.