Last week, Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes labored mightily to put a favorable spin on Carroll law enforcement's first random canine search for drugs in a school.
Even though no drugs were turned up at North Carroll High after 700 lockers and several dozen cars were combed, Mr. Barnes proclaimed the effort a success. He also said that the prospect of these unannounced searches deterred students from dealing drugs in school.
If only that were true. This program has not brought Carroll County any closer to eliminating teen-age drug use.
To the contrary, the high-profile police efforts to rid Carroll schools of drugs have been singularly unsuccessful.
There was the embarrassing episode recently in which the county's Drug Task Force announced the arrest of a major dealer of LSD at Westminster High School, only to have the case fall apart when it turned out the student was selling bogus look-alike drugs to gullible peers.
The highly publicized search at North Carroll High School was also a bust. Not for a minute should any observer be lulled into a false sense of complacency that the absence of drugs uncovered means the drug problem has been solved.
In fact, Carroll law enforcement personnel have not been responsible for the most successful drug enforcement initiative in that county's schools this year.
That distinction belongs to a Carroll Middle School student, who, after attending a drug awareness program last February, turned in a 13-year-old classmate for selling marijuana at school the next day.
If Carroll's citizenry wants to eliminate drugs not just from the schools but from the lives of their children, random searches of school lockers by drug-sniffing dogs are not the answer.
Most drug transactions between teen-agers take place away from school, in shopping center parking lots, along remote country roads, in family recreation rooms.
In the long run, the schools' drug awareness program will probably have a greater impact on curbing teen drug use than the occasional dog search.
If Carroll County's parents, teachers and students work together to eliminate demand for drugs, there will be fewer worries about a drug problem in the schools.