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Jan 25, 2012 8:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

No Opposition to Drug-Sniffing Dog Idea At Pierson High School

Jan 25, 2012 12:25 PM

Contrasted to a year ago, when parents and school employees objected to the notion of having police drug-sniffing dogs patrol school hallways, Monday night’s first official discussion of Sag Harbor School District’s proposed new policy of doing just that generated nary a peep of opposition.

Board members, who largely said they are now on board with Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Gratto’s proposal to use drug dogs as a deterrent to students bringing illegal substances to school with them—something he first brought forward last year—listened intently as Inspector Stuart Cameron of the Suffolk County Police Department’s K-9 unit explained the procedure that has been used in other schools on Long Island, including at least three on the East End.

The inspector said that County Police conducted 10 dog patrol operations at schools in the last two years, in a total of seven school districts. In two cases, arrests were made for marijuana possession as a result of the patrols.

The typical procedure is that the dogs are brought into a school shortly after a class period has begun, while students are in classrooms. Administrators are asked to issue a lockdown order so that students are not wandering the hallways; all K-9 unit dogs are trained to bite perceived assailants, said Inspector Cameron, so police do not want students interacting with them in any way.

The dogs would be led through the hallways, past students’ lockers. The officer said that the dogs occasionally detect the presence of drugs in lockers that are ultimately found not to contain any, simply because the dogs’ sensitive noses can detect residue of drugs that could be years old. He said there should be no suspicion of students whose lockers produce indications but are found not to contain drugs.

“We might walk into a house and say, ‘Oh, I smell beef stew,’” Inspector Cameron said. “The dog would smell the carrots and the celery or the onions—they’re that sensitive.”

Dr. Gratto asked about the possibility that dogs could detect drugs in one of the occupied classrooms if a student had them in his or her possession. The inspector said that was a possibility, but that the dogs would not be led into classrooms. He said officials could be informed if the dogs indicate to their handlers that they smell drugs in a classroom or other part of the building, and police would let the school officials handle the situation as they saw fit.

In order to qualify for the County Police drug dog program, which is provided free of charge because the K-9 unit officers use the searches as training for their dogs, the district would be required to send a letter to all parents in the district informing them of the policy and notifying them that the students’ lockers would be sniffed at some point, likely multiple times, during the school year.

When he introduced the policy earlier this month, Dr. Gratto said he saw the dog patrols more as a deterrent to students bringing drugs into the school than as an effort to locate drugs in the school. If students knew there was a chance that the dogs would be in the school, they would be less likely to bring drugs with them.

“Our interest is not in catching people, it is to deter,” the superintendent said on Monday night. “So they would be recommended to seek counseling.”

In 2010, a 16-year-old female Pierson student was arrested for selling marijuana to another student, just 13 years old.

The School Board is slated to hold another discussion of the proposed policy at its next meeting, on February 6, before voting on whether or not to implement it.

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Good for them! Now, if they would apply a similar action in Riverhead... we'd be alright.
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Jan 25, 12 1:32 PM
Anybody think of asking the students how THEY feel about having drug-sniffing dogs in school? I realize that they are minors and have no rights but it would be courteous and it might make them feel that someone cares about their opinion.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 25, 12 8:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
OK, marijuana is illegal HH, and we don't want our kids involved in illegal activities, right? The dogs will be a deterrant for the most part and will detect contraband where it's present. There's no downside to this. As to the kid's FEELINGS, sorry, they're the kids and the adults make the rules, deal with it.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 26, 12 12:27 PM
3 members liked this comment
Does it surprise anyone that the angry troll under the bridge does not like kids? Is anyone surprised that this "smaller government" conservative, who often espouses libertarian talking points, would support such a blatant violation of civil liberties?

Yes, bigfresh, children don't make the rules. Deal with it.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jan 26, 12 12:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Local school boards are an embarrassment. This is is a complete over-reaction and a stupid waste of taxpayer dollars.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jan 26, 12 12:56 PM
Spoken like a true left wing hippy
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Jan 27, 12 12:29 AM
incorrect progressnow. Suffolk county pd has offered this service for years FREE OF CHARGE to any school that requests it. So there will be no additional taxpayer dollars spent. (only the money already alotted to the k-9 unit) So the money is to be spent whether they decide to search schools or not, it's in their general budget for the unit.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 27, 12 7:14 PM
Spark another one Pro, there's no violation of civil liberties by checking the contents of lockers belonging to the school.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 26, 12 11:32 PM
Ok they have been warned. Drug sniffing dogs will be brought in periodically. So someone who might be tempted to bring illegal drugs to school will refrain from doing so for fear of getting caught.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 27, 12 1:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Unless there is a recent history of drug-selling at the school seems like a waste of time. Do dogs just detect pot or can they detect all types of pills?
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Jan 27, 12 3:09 PM
I don't see what the big deal is. If the students don't have illegal drugs in their possession, they have nothing to worry about.
To everyone against this practice, "Would you allow your children to participate in illegal activities such as drug use?" I don't expect any answers, as it would show who the bad parents are.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 27, 12 7:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
and when their friend goes to jail and loses a scholarship to college and gets into drinking and pills because he's on probation, they will be like "whatever i guess filthy potheads deserve what they get."
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Jan 30, 12 8:48 AM
Sounds like the K-9 Unit is underutilized - imagine that! Whoever writes that there is no "cost" to tax-paid, government employees (police and otherwise) doing something, anything, I don't care what IT is (picking up a pencil to write something "costs" something in the way of slaries) - is delusional. I don't care how the kids "feel" - as usual HHS is just plain silly sometimes - but I don't see this is as big deterrent to a problem (?). I see this as the Troopers needing something to do. Although ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Jan 28, 12 6:09 PM
Note those who deride the idea of taking notice of the feelings of children. It is a revelatory response. Coercion instead of reason; diktat instead of discussion - - - the solipsistic perspective of reactionary autocrats is nothing if not predictable.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 29, 12 3:00 AM
While we're at it, let's ban the use of video cameras in banks, because it might violate the civil rights of bank robbers.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 29, 12 8:13 PM
Hitler would like this.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Jan 29, 12 12:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
What is wrong with some people..... Smoke up Bob sounds like your offended by the rules
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Jan 29, 12 7:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
I still don't get why people are against this. If students were pulled over in a vehicle while carrying drugs they'd be arrested, so why wouldn't they be disciplined for carrying drugs in school? (Where they have a greater chance of spreading the bad behavior)
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 29, 12 8:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
to AlwaysLocal:

To use your analogy, a cop cannot search your car for anything without probable cause (i.e. evidence) that you are engaging in some prohibited conduct.

The kids whose lockers will be search are innocent of any suspicious conduct. They will have to submit because they have no rights, as they well know. It is a bad lesson for children. As adults, they are likely to perceive their rights as merely notional when they interfere with the will of the police.

Furthermore, ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 29, 12 8:58 PM
I worked in an inpatient substance abuse facility... and believe you me, the youngn's that we had were a hell of a lot more inventive regarding the stashing of said substances than their older counterparts. A good portion of these kids today are completely uneducated when it comes to the realities of the real world. They have their parents hand them everything on a silver platter through manipulation, guilt, etc.. and when the real world comes a-knockin', they throw up their hands, look confused, ...more
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Jan 29, 12 9:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sure hope the faculty and principal get their stashes outta there before the dog comes in.
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Jan 30, 12 6:09 AM
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Let's bring dogs trained to attack people into schools to sniff out the pot that it definitely there. Some kids whose lockers used to have pot (but don't have pot themselves) will be accused and probably go through hell with their parents and they school, but hey it's just a little collateral damage. Other kids, who actually do have some pot, are going to arrested, have a record, and essentially have their life ruined - i mean, why wait for pot to have its slim chance to ruin their life when you ...more
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Jan 30, 12 8:47 AM
If you had been given the unique opportunity to experience the continual downfall that occupies the mind of an addict (as I have.. ) you would probably not be saying half of what's coming out of your mouth. Experience is a wonderful teacher.. and looking back ten years ago, I wish that the RCSD had done something akin to this then.

You bring up the legal ways to get high.. alcohol and scripts. With scripts, one has to go doctor shopping or have a rather large income to fund the street ...more
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Jan 30, 12 2:32 PM
I am saying that there is a better chance that sending someone to jail will have a better chance of ruining their life than having a gram of pot in their locker in school. Some of the kids at that school who smoke pot now will have problems in the future. If they now smoke pot AND have a record AND are kicked out of school activities and sports, they will probably lose more opportunities. The never ending-trend of teen suicide is something to consider before a school turns against its students ...more
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Feb 3, 12 10:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Xanax and alcohol do show up on a standard UDA. So does Pot, coke, heroin, acid, shrooms and the like.

I've learned the hard way... it sucks. However, once a person decides to fastrack their lives back to being productive after they've graduated from the school of hard knocks, the rewards are infinitely better. Why? Once you've been down and out, and everyone has turned away from you because of choices made while using, you learn to do for yourself because you have to. It's a process, albeit ...more
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Feb 3, 12 10:49 AM
Alcohol is out of your system in 3 days, tops. When you get arrested for pot, you drink. It is just pot. Getting arrested is not "Just getting arrested." you are advocating ruining kids lives in honor of "rules and regs."
Arresting a kid is much more disruptive than him or her smoking pot. you are a bad person.
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Mar 8, 12 11:16 AM
I'm a bad person? Wow... who the hell are you to judge?
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Nov 6, 12 7:06 PM
Drug use, possession and sales are a problem in all schools--certainly not just Sag Harbor--and it is time for us to stop ignoring it. I would think these dogs would be a relief to the majority of students who are not involved in drugs and have to ignore and turn their heads the other way daily to drug behavior, use and sales. It is my understanding that the use of the dogs is to deter students from bringing pot to school not to catch anyone. Why a student feels the need to bring pot or drugs ...more
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jan 30, 12 9:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think this is just proactive law inforcement. Don't bring drugs to school. This step will help protect protect other kids from exposure to the problem. I applaude the Board for making this decision.
By unclemilt (57), southampton on Nov 6, 12 7:55 PM