Drug-sniffing dogs may go to schools

Anyone bringing contraband to Wilton schools is being put on notice. Drug-sniffing dogs may soon be allowed in.
The Board of Education proposed a provision to its search and seizure policy (P-5142), which would allow the use of specially trained dogs to ensure school safety.
“There are a number of other high schools in the state who have adopted this provision,” Superintendent Kevin Smith said during the board’s March 26 meeting. “If we’re going to provide a safe environment for our kids, then we should take every step available.”
While the district currently has the right to search, as defined in its existing policy, said Smith, “the existing policy does not speak to the use of drug-sniffer dogs.”
“We’ve been considering and implementing ways to enhance our security measures in all of our schools for some time,” Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly told The Bulletin.
“The use of canines is simply an extension of that work given their effectiveness in identifying various forms of contraband.”
Likly said he believes the detection dog provision sends a strong message to the community that contraband is “not acceptable in the schools.”
“It is my hope that if and when used, they don’t find anything,” he said. “Our objective [is] to use canines and other means as constructive and positive deterrents in an effort to keep contraband out of our schools and to keep our kids safe.”
According to the provision, the trained dogs would be used to detect the presence of contraband in lockers, classrooms, parking areas, student cars, and storage areas owned by the Board of Education.
The search-and-seizure regulation prohibits students from keeping or storing items that are illegal, that are in violation of school regulations, or that endanger the health, safety or welfare of themselves or others, including:

  • Firearms.

  • Knives or other weapons.

  • Explosives.

  • Poisons.

  • Alcoholic beverages.

  • Drugs (drugs prescribed by a doctor must be kept with the school nurse).

  • Stolen property.

  • Other material or devices that endanger persons or property in the school community.

With the education board’s permission and the superintendent’s authorization, school administration would invite law enforcement agencies “or other qualified agencies or individuals” to search school property with the specially trained dogs.
The school principal or a designee would be present while the search took place.
Upon a dog’s signal, the principal or designee would conduct a search of an individual or his or her effects in accordance with the district’s policy and regulation.
“God forbid we ever do find something that has to be dealt with,” said Likly, “a school resource officer will be there to deal with it appropriately and make sure that everybody’s rights are looked after.”
Any contraband found during the search would either be submitted to the Wilton Police Department for proper disposition or disposed of as directed by the building principal.
The provision gives district administration “sole authority for determining internal disciplinary action in regard to illegal substance or contraband on school property,” and the superintendent or designee has “sole determination as to when a sweep of school property will be conducted by the detection dogs.”
Before detection dogs and their handlers enter a school building, according to the regulation, the school is to follow “standard protocol for a lock-down procedure.”
According to the regulation, dogs would not be used in occupied rooms, except as part of a program designed to inform students or parents of the dogs’ capabilities, and individuals “shall not be subjected to a search by [the] dogs.”
While parents and students would be notified of the board’s search-and-seizure policy, the regulation states that “specific dates of planned search[es] need not be released.”
Likly said the proposed policy will “most likely” go on the education board’s April 23 meeting agenda as an action item.
“Once approved, policies usually go into effect immediately,” Likly told The Bulletin. “That is not to say that the use of canines would or would not happen immediately thereafter.”
The policies and regulations are available on the board’s website: http://www.wilton.k12.ct.us /.