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Education Board OKs Use Of K-9 Units In School

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Will Be On The Job At Waterford High Beginning Next Year

After seven years of discussion and debate, Waterford High School will have K-9 units conduct random searches of the building and the parking lots next school year.

“This is an additional tool to really discourage the use of illegal substances, as well as maintaining safety at the schools,” Superintendent Jerome Belair said at the board of education meeting Thursday.

The board of education unanimously favored implementing the searches. Some policies need to be changed, but that could be done by November, Belair said.

History

Discussions of implementing K-9 searches have been going on for seven years, high school Principal Don Macrino said. This spring, Police Chief Murray Pendleton contacted the principal, saying towns in the state are beginning to use K-9 units in the school “in an effort to maintain a drug-free campus,” Macrino wrote in a memorandum to Belair.

With Pendleton's urging, Macrino, Dean of Students Gene Ryan, Police Sergeant Stephen Bellos and Police Youth Office Nicole VanOverloop went to Suffield High School to watch a K-9 unit conduct a search. Witnessing the event left Macrino “favorably impressed,” he wrote.

Students were put under a “working lockdown,” which means they were kept in the classrooms while the dogs searched the school, a 15-minute process, Macrino said. Then, the dogs were brought outside to search both the faculty lot and the student parking lot, Macrino said.

The dogs found no drugs inside Suffield High School, he said. They found two “positive tests” in the parking lot though, Macrino said.

“What I saw was really a benign activity,” the principal said. “At no point did the dogs come into contact with the students.”

The experience proved decisive. Macrino, with backing of his administration, recommended K-9 searches at Waterford High School.

“I compare it very favorably to us implementing Breathalyzers at high school dances,” Macrino said. “It is really a preventive tool.”

Since Waterford High School used random Breathalyzer tests at high school dances, not a single student has been caught, Macrino said. However, “there are extraordinary fewer instances” of drinking before dances, he said.

“It seemed to take the pressure off of the kids to do drinking before the events because it was the thing to do,” Macrino said.

These searches could provide that same effect, he said.

How It Works

Several teams of dogs will be brought into the high school, while students are in “working lockdown” and not in the hallways, Bellos said. The dogs will search all lockers, closets and all unoccupied parts of the building, all in under 20 minutes, Bellos said.

“Our goal is to get in and out and let the kids get back to their routine,” he said.

Then the dogs will be brought outside to search the parking lot, Bellos said.

If a locker is found to have drugs inside, it will be tagged and the school administration will search it, Bellos said. If an arrest is needed, the police will then be called, he said.

If the dogs find drugs in the parking lot, the police will search the car and be in-control of the investigation, Bellos said. Students will not be searched, he said.

The searches will probably happen once a year, if that, Macrino said. They will not be announced, he said.

A positive “hit” by a dog constitutes probable cause to search, Bellos said. However, all tests will be double-checked by another dog, he said.

Kathy June 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Now this is good news! Its about time.
Concerned Resident June 24, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Once a year is not enough. Maybe the middle school should be searched also!
R Lee Balderdash June 24, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Why wouldn't they search the students also? Do they think that the students are not smart enough to just keep their pot in their pockets and not put it in their locker?
Disgusted Parent February 23, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Good, that school is so full of drugs, it's pathetic. Kids have no fear in Waterford. They carry around drugs in their backpacks. So sick of it.
Lora Justin Virga February 28, 2012 at 12:48 AM
The students do not use their lockers, so maybe they should search their backpacks. Students carry their backpacks all day long. Maybe they should search the middle school ,since students start drugs in middle school. Why are the student allowed to get off the school bus, in the morning, and go off school property to smoke what they want to smoke??? And why aren't the teachers in school when the school buses are arriving??? Maybe Waterford High School should change school policies not have a search once a year. I hope Mr. Belair reads this and does more then just dog searching. Waterford High School has a big drug problem, and more.
Breanna Homme April 24, 2012 at 06:31 AM
The students have rights. To search a student or their backpacks the police have to have probable cause. The police don't have to have probable cause to search lockers because the lockers belong to the school.
Breanna Homme April 24, 2012 at 06:39 AM
It's good that steps are being taken to prevent drug use in Waterford High School. I think the same thing should be done in Clark Lane and I think the searches should happen more often than once a year, maybe once or twice a month at random. While it would be nice if the dogs could be given access to backpacks, however, students have rights that I do not believe should be ignored under any circumstance. I agree with Lora Justin Virga that the Waterford School district has a lot of problems including drugs. I strongly believe that these problems need to be addressed now rather than later.

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