Thursday, for the first time ever, police dogs from eight different municipalities performed an unannounced search of the halls and parking lot of Waterford High School, looking for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
No drugs or paraphernalia were found.
“We were very pleased with the results," Principal Don Macrino said. “On this day, we were like we’d like to be all the time."
The Board of Education approved allowing K-9 searches of Waterford High School in June of 2011, and worked out the exact policy during the 2011-12 school year. After a year of planning, which intensified in this summer, the school hosted its first K-9 search of the school Thursday.
Few people knew about the search, as it was a surprise to most of the high school staff and all the students. Police dogs from Waterford, East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Stonington, Suffield, Vernon and Westerly, RI, participated in the search, which lasted about an hour-and-a-half.
“It was a serious search,” Macrino said. “It certainly got the student body’s attention.”
Thursday morning, the high school was put on a “working lockdown,” which means that all students and staff were told to stay in the rooms they were in and continue with the school day, Macrino said. During the lockdown, which lasted about 25 minutes, police dogs searched the lockers, the hallways and every other “nook and cranny” of the school, but found no evidence of drugs, Macrino said.
The lockdown was then lifted, and then the dogs searched every car in both the student parking lot and the faculty parking lot, he said. The dogs did smell something in one vehicle, but police searched the car and found nothing, Macrino said.
During the search, the dogs were never in the vicinity of a student or staff member, he said. Macrino said he did not find the search “overly invasive,” and said the key was the good working relationship between the Waterford School District and the Waterford Police Department.
“I’ve said this before, because it is true, but the high school and the Waterford Police Department have a particularly good relationship because we do work so closely together,” Macrino said. “That really is a critical relationship, especially in this day and age, and really makes things work so much better.”
Macrino said he sees the search as both a way to catch students who bring in drugs to school and to deter students from bringing drugs into the school. He said the searches will probably happen once or twice a year, but could be done more often if needed.
Drugs in School?
Just because no drugs were found on Thursday does not mean that drugs are never brought into Waterford High School, Macrino said. Teenagers do experiment with drugs, and like most other schools sometimes students do bring drugs into Waterford High, he said.
“Unfortunately, adolescents experiment,” Macrino said. “We are trying to do our part, we try to educate them against that. But doing this at this school, just like having the breathalyzers (at student dances), gives us much greater reassurance that it isn’t happening in school. And that’s important.”