Drug-sniffing dogs may be used on a random basis in Davis County schools as part of continuing efforts to make the schools drug-free.

The Davis Board of Education tentatively approved a new drug and alcohol abuse policy Tuesday night and should have the final version ready for approval in mid-June.The board voted unanimously to include a section that will give principals discretion to call in drug-sniffing dogs to seek out lockers where drugs may be stored for distribution. Board members said the district has been ridiculed by some for considering the policy, but they said principals should have every tool possible to rid their schools of drugs.

"Ever since we first discussed this last fall there have been those who have tried to make fun of us," said board member Robert Thurgood. "Our only intent has been to give our principals an added tool to get drugs out of the schools."

Board member Louenda Downs agreed. "As long as we have students who are at risk we must do what we can. If this is an option to help get drugs out of the schools, then we should do something."

Penny Hill, a Layton High School counselor who helped formulate the policy, said the new guidelines will be effective because they punish students found using drugs, alcohol or tobacco at school. First and second offenses will result in suspension from school for one to three days, and the student will be ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities for up to one calendar year. The principal may reduce the extracurricular activity penalty to either two events or two weeks, whichever is greater, if the student agrees to follow the recommendations of the school's intervention officer for a designated period of time.

A third offense and any other subsequent offense will result in expulsion from school, which can only be rescinded if the student completes an outside assessment and/or treatment program at the expense of the parents or guardian. Readmission to school will be at the discretion of the district pupil personnel director.

Hill said the committee feels the policy takes a positive approach to the problem and that by adding specific consequences, students know what is expected of them and what will happen if they violate the guidelines. "This will allow them to make decisions knowing what the consequence of those decisions will be, and that is good."

Jim Hill, district physical education and health curriculum supervisor, said principals initially reacted negatively to the idea of having drug-sniffing dogs at the schools. He said most feel the present authority to conduct locker searches is sufficient, and such searches can be done without the disruption that a dog might cause.

Board member Henry Heath said he believes the district would be remiss if it does not provide the authority to use whatever tools are available. He said principals will not be forced to use dogs but should have that opportunity if they feel the problem warrants their use.

Officials said that in most instances the use of dogs will be after school hours so that regular programs are not disrupted. They said, however, there should be random school-hour inspections from time to time. If searches were only done after school, students would feel it was safe to bring drugs to school as long as they took them home each night, said board members.

The committee will review the document one more time to incorporate board suggestions, and copies will be sent to principals for their comments. Hill said the policy will be ready for board consideration in its final form at the end of June.

Superintendent Richard Kendell said he wants the policy ready in time for principal training sessions in August.