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High school to use drug-sniffing dog on campus


Last updated 5/15/2008 at Noon

Fallbrook Union High School District is taking a more proactive step to combat drug use on its campuses by revising Board Policy 5145.12 – Search and Seizure – decided at Monday night’s meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The policy revision, earning the unanimous approval of the four board members present – Dennis Allen, Lynn Colburn, Bill O’Connor and Michael Schulte – allows school administrators to utilize drug-sniffing canines made available by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Students can expect to see the canines utilized when the 2008-2009 school year begins.

“My suggestion is that you advise parents, staff and students of what we intend to do,” said Lt. Alex Dominguez, commander of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Substation, who addressed the board prior to the vote on the policy revision. “This will send a message that we do not tolerate drugs in our schools.”

Dominguez was accompanied by Deputy Pete Alvarado and Quandro, one of the department’s dual-purpose canines. A dual-purpose canine is trained for both standard patrol duty and drug detection.

Dominguez explained that the Sheriff’s Department routinely responds to calls from the school when students are suspected to be in possession of drugs. That support would be increased with the drug-sniffing canines.

“I believe this will help us support a safe learning environment for the students,” Dominguez said.

Alvarado detailed the various drugs that can be detected by the canines, including marijuana, powdered and rock cocaine, powdered and crystal methamphetamine and powdered and tar heroine.

The district’s interim superintendent, Dr. Robert French, said it is important for board members, students, parents and the public to understand that the canines would be used in an investigative capacity, such as around locker areas and vehicles, not in body searches.

“We won’t search someone’s person because these dual-purpose canines will bite,” said Alvarado, explaining that the dogs are also trained in suspect apprehension.

John Hayek, assistant principal of Fallbrook High School, and the two Sheriff’s Department representatives emphasized to board members that a detailed operations plan needs to be finalized for the use of the canines on campus.

“We want it to be effective, safe and legal,” Dominguez said.

Hayek said he and Fallbrook High School Principal Rod King have spent a significant amount of time developing the plan, which is still being refined. Hayek said he will look to the board for final direction on the plan and its implementation.

“We will do [canine searches] as frequently or infrequently as the board sees fit,” Hayek said. He also advised board members that drug use on campus is “more than you see.”

The board’s student representative, Jovanna Vellone, agreed.

“It gets pretty bad, especially in the bathrooms,” Vellone said. “I think this will help a lot.”

Board member Colburn said he was strongly in favor of a more proactive approach to the problem.

“We have to admit [drugs] are here,” Colburn said. He went on to cite his experiences with drug-sniffing canines at Orange Glen High School, where he served as principal in the past.

“The students took it in stride,” Colburn said. “It was in our handbook and we had signs posted around campus.”

As discussion continued, it was clear that a team effort between the district and the Sheriff’s Department has been forged to make a positive difference in the campus environment.

“A safe high school is a safe community; that’s what I’m after,” Dominguez said.


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