, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 23, 2012

MHS improves safety, but not reputation

It’s far different than it was in ’90s, campus police chief says

— When Dan Hall started working with campus security in 1994 at Muskogee High School, he said he would often question himself.

“I would think, ‘Just what have I gotten myself into,’ ” Hall said. “It was, well, let’s just say it was a different place than it is now. That’s for sure.”

In 17 years at MHS, Hall, the campus police chief, said the campus, the students and the vibe of a school day has “changed completely.”

However, the perception of the school and of the safety of its almost 1,700 students has been slower to change, he said.

“I understand the reputation we may have at other schools, and what other people think Muskogee may be,” Hall said. “But I can also say that those people would be shocked if they came here now and saw reality.”

Hall described the ’90s as “rough,” and Sgt. Bill Parris said campus officers would break up 200 to 300 fights a year. Change, Hall said, came each year.

“Each year the school would get a little better and grow a little more,” Hall said. “And each year, the students would get a little better. You could see the change happening before your eyes if you looked close enough.”

The biggest catalyst for Muskogee High School’s current condition, Hall said, was a 2007 bond issue.

“When that passed, it changed the whole dynamic of the school,” Hall said. “I think the kids realized we were invested in them, and in turn, they became more invested in the school.”

Parris said he’d broken up “just 20 to 30 fights” this year. Hall said part of that was due to student involvement and student ownership of the school. But the campus police force has a role, too.

One thing police have instituted at the school is the Rougher Safe Call — a phone number that students can call or text during the day to make an anonymous report.

Some students, Hall said, don’t want to be seen talking to a police officer for fear of being labeled a snitch. The phone number allows students to inform officers of fights, drugs, bullying, and other problems in confidence.

Its effects are felt in two ways. Not only can students inform officers of problems, but potential troublemakers are aware eyes may be on them.

“(Thursday night,) we got a message from a student that someone was going to be at the tennis court at 3 a.m. to mess some things up,” Hall said. “But we got there first.”

Drugs — particularly prescription drugs — and alcohol are a problem for most high schools, and Hall said he and his officers are constantly on the lookout for that type of contraband.

Friday, three Alice Robertson Junior High students were caught using prescription Lortab pills belonging to the father of one of the students. The student who brought the pills will face complaints of possession of controlled dangerous substance and distribution of controlled dangerous substance, “just like the real world,” Hall said.

The other two students will face school suspension.

One of the deterrents in the war on drugs is the use of the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office drug dogs. Deputies run the dogs through the parking lot when requested, Hall said, though he prefers no one know when that will happen.

“I don’t even want to know when the dogs come through,” Hall said. “That way, there can’t even be a question of if someone has been tipped off ahead of time. I don’t know, the students don’t know, the teachers don’t know, heck, the principal doesn’t even know.”

Hall’s records show only seven drug possession cases on campus in the first 27 weeks of the school year. Paperwork for the fourth nine weeks won’t be completed until the school year ends. That’s seven possession cases for “about 1,700 kids,” Hall said.

In comparison, Wagoner High School, with an enrollment of around 650, has had 13 drug possession cases, Principal Mike Christy said.

Wagoner has taken a direct approach to any budding drug problem, he said.

Wagoner County has a Juvenile Offenders Program, Christy said. Students without a criminal record who are caught with drugs on campus can enter the JOP.

“Anyone caught with drugs or caught under the influence is referred to this system,” Christy said. “It’s a program of counseling, testing and community service that we’ve found to be very successful.”

Christy said the program, handled by the Wagoner County Courthouse, was started last year, and so far has had a success rate of about 90 percent.

“A kid can get in trouble and you can suspend him or whatever and the student will receive no rehab,” Christy said. “This way, they learn from their mistakes and, hopefully, grow a little bit.

“The idea is we can catch them early and steer them away from that type of behavior.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or

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