Drug-sniffing dogs will be part of the effort in Davis County schools to create drug-free campuses, but officials say their use will be limited and strictly controlled.
The Davis Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to include the use of dogs as part of a comprehensive anti-drug, alcohol and tobacco use policy.The policy, effective with the start of school this fall, outlines the disciplinary steps that are to be taken against students who use or possess the banned substances on school property or at school-sponsored activities.
The policy provides for penalties that get stronger for repeated offenses, including the potential for expulsion or suspension from school. The policy also gives principals the option of referring offenders to police for criminal prosecution.
The dogs will assist officials in locating lockers where illegal substances are being stored. Officials hope just the thought that such tactics are available to the schools will discourage students from bringing drugs on campus.
Principals, in conjunction with their immediate supervisor, are given primary discretion in the use of dogs. The policy cautions the principals to be fair and to protect individual student rights. It says the invasion of privacy associated with the use of dogs should be minimized and that caution should be used to see that students are not unduly frightened or humiliated.
Because students do not have an exclusive right to possession of school lockers, officials believe the use of drug-sniffing dogs is permissible. The policy says the use of dogs will be directed at creating a reasonable cause for a locker search in accordance with legal guidelines for searches without warrants.
Police involvement at the schools will be limited to the handling of the dogs. The principal will retain the authority and responsibility to conduct any investigation, search of lockers, questioning of students and notification of parents, the policy states.
The policy forbids using the dogs to sniff individual students but it allows the dogs to be used to sniff vehicles parked on school property during school hours. Any contraband found during searches can be turned over to police officials.
The locker searches will likely occur before or after regular school hours to keep disruptions to a minimum. The policy allows police to bring the dogs on campus during school hours to conduct demonstrations.
A written locker agreement spelling out the joint control of lockers by the students and the schools and the fact that the lockers could be subject to search without invasion of privacy will be provided to each student this fall.
The agreement is intended to provide notice to students that lockers may be subjected to searches without warrants if reasonable cause for such searches is established.
"I believe in a `get-tough' policy but we must also realize that this does not solve the problem - it only removes substances from the campus," said board member Ray Briscoe. "Increased education is the only way that the problem will be solved and we need to be laying the foundation for such education in the elementary schools."
James Hill, health and physical education supervisor, said that is the direction efforts are taking in the district.
Board member Louenda Downs emphasized that mandatory inspections will not occur as part of the policy. She said the use of dogs is just an additional tool being given to administrators to be used only when conditions warrant.