Expand drug-dog use? School board to consider options

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Thursday, November 12, 2009
— The practice of running drug-sniffing dogs through Janesville middle and high schools is not likely to end soon, but the school board is poised to review the practice.

The result could be an even greater use of dogs.

Dogs have sniffed lockers occasionally since May 2005. Students and staff are restricted to classrooms during the searches. The police dogs also started sniffing students’ cars in the past two years.

Only two students have ever been arrested as the result of a dog search. Those were for marijuana possession in November 2008. One student was arrested at Parker High and one at Craig High. Marijuana allegedly was found in their cars.

The Janesville School Board discussed the practice at its meeting Tuesday. Some board members questioned what the actual purpose is—to find drugs or to deter students from bringing them to school.

Board member Lori Stottler said students are “snickering” at authorities because they keep their drugs in their shoes or backpacks, which the dogs don’t search.

Stottler and board members Greg Ardrey and Bill Sodemann said the district should run dogs past both staff and student cars.

Ardrey and Stottler mentioned staff lounges and classrooms as well.

Some board members seemed to suggest having dogs sniff students or staff, but doing so without probable cause for a search is constitutionally questionable.

Stottler said Wednesday that exploring the legal boundaries is one thing the board should do as it reviews the program.

Board President DuWayne Severson said Wednesday he intends to work with Superintendent Karen Schulte to look at options for expanding or enhancing the searches, with an eye to bringing a proposal to the board.

Severson said the searches are like traffic lights: The fact that there are few arrests does not mean that they are not doing some good.

If even a couple students are deterred, the searches have served their purpose, Severson added.

Stottler asked whether the practice of calling students out of classes to open their cars for officers was a good one.

Thirteen Janesville high school students were reportedly taken to their cars last May and asked if they had any drugs inside.

The students consented to the searches at Craig and Parker high schools. No drugs were found.

Police have told school officials that the dog’s “hits” on those cars probably were because drugs had been removed from the cars.

Stottler said that if that’s the case, perhaps students whose lockers or cars get “hits” should be counseled afterward.

Board member Kevin Murray asked what the downside of dog searches is.

Superintendent Karen Schulte said police do the searches for free, but they take up administrators’ time, and it’s disruptive to students who are called out of class.

Schulte said pulling out the students could be embarrassing to some.

Last updated: 11:58 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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