“Stay in Place” Drill Catches Students and Staff Off-Guard

K-9 units enter the high school for the second time since Hutchings’ arrival in 2013


Rachel Weisman

Police cars could be seen outside a window in the high school during a “stay in place” drill April 11.

High school administration conducted a “stay in place” drill today from 1:19 to 1:59 p.m. Assistant Principal Ramsey Inman announced the drill over the PA system, and an email was sent simultaneously to high school faculty and staff.

The email from Inman stated, “We will be working with the Shaker Heights Police Department to conduct a STAY IN PLACE drill today and a sniff of lockers and parking areas. This is a sniff that has been scheduled for some time. Sniffs have taken place in the past to help provide a safe and secure learning environment.”

After the announcement, students heard barks, presumably from police dogs. The email further explained that no hall passes should be issued by teachers, students must report to an authorized classroom, teachers need to lock all classroom doors and all other spaces are to be locked.

In a 2:38 p.m. email to faculty and administration, Principal Jonathan Kuehnle said that no contraband was found as a result of the search.

“I wish it was more clear at first that it’s a drug check and not a lockdown,” senior Emma Duhamel said. “ ‘Stay in place’ made me think there was a lockdown.”

In 2013, former high school Principal Michael Griffith told The Shakerite that students would not be informed in advance of such searches.

“When the announcement first came on, I thought it was a different form of a lockdown drill, like maybe someone died or something,” junior Myyah Husamadeen said. “My whole class was super confused, but no one took anything seriously. We just continued to do what we were doing.”

Senior Meredith Frothingham was off campus for lunch eighth period, which is allowed according to school handbook rules, when she found herself blocked from her class due to the drill. “I was at lunch and five minutes late to ninth period, but then I couldn’t get in the building, so I missed all of ninth period,” she said.

There is no procedure in the district Emergency Operations Plan for a “stay in place” drill, though there is for a “shelter in place” drill, normally used in instances of hazardous weather or chemicals in or around a school building.

The district posted a statement during the drill on shaker.org. The message stated, “A previously scheduled random search of lockers is taking place today at the High School. The K-9 Unit of the Shaker Heights Police Department is assisting in detecting any contraband or illegal substances. Random searches of this type have taken place in the past and help us maintain a safe and secure learning environment.” The statement then justified the use of dogs, in compliance with a Board of Education policy in the 2017-2018 Student Handbook.

In January 2018, Superintendent Gregory G. Hutchings, Jr. recalled the first time he allowed police dogs into the school. “Oh, it was negative,” he said, laughing. “I still remember. It was a negative response,” he said. The search yielded no results.

However, he said that he has received more encouragement to bring the dogs back in recent years. “Now, you fast forward to four years, and now people are telling me, ‘Why am I not bringing them into the schools?’ ” he said. “I’m finally full circle. Now, I get the support to bring them in! So they will be coming back.”

Editor in Chief Grace Lougheed, Journalism Managing Editor Maggie Spielman and Opinion Editor Emilie Evans contributed reporting for this story.

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