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Drug-sniffing dogs will be used at Potter Jr. High


Last updated 8/21/2008 at Noon

With an action taken Monday night, August 18, to amend Board Bylaw 5145.12 ‘Search and Seizure,’ the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD) Board of Trustees has moved forward to allow the use of narcotics-sniffing canines at Potter Junior High School beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.

The step to bring in drug-sniffing dogs to detect narcotics at Potter, while not in collaboration with the high school district’s recent decision to implement the use of canines on their campus, is in line with the Fallbrook Union High School District’s anti-drug commitment.

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Alex Dominguez, commander of the Sheriff’s substation in Fallbrook, introduced and described the canine program to the FUESD board at Monday night’s meeting.

Dominguez said the Sheriff’s Department is supportive of the school district’s fight against drugs and is willing to help them in any way possible.

“We are trying to make school a safe, drug-free environment and will assist school officials in creating a safe, effective learning environment for students,” Dominguez said. “This is part of that effort.”

According to Assistant Superintendent James Whitlock, some 50 parents turned out for Monday night’s meeting and the overwhelming majority were appreciative of the fact that the district is taking more proactive measures to keep drugs off the campus.

“I was delighted with the turnout and the support of the parents,” Whitlock said. “Many were Spanish-speaking and used translators to make their opinion known to the board. It was a great show of support.”

The board moved forward with the action based on information provided recently by FUESD Superintendent Janice Schultz, who pointed out to the trustees that out of the 20 students at Potter Junior High School who faced expulsion during the 2007-2008 school year, 18 of those cases involved illegal drugs.

“Last year, we had a number of incidents where students brought illegal drugs to school for personal use and sale,” Schultz said in a call-out message to Potter parents and staff on August 12.

Lt. Dominguez said a trained canine is a very effective tool in uncovering drugs; he feels that if there are drugs on campus, school officials will be able to pinpoint them more easily, allowing for a better learning environment for children.

The possibility of using more than one dog on campus depends on the operation strategy and setup being used by the Sheriff’s department at the time.

Whitlock clarified that school officials will not use the dogs to (body) search students, but if the dog gives the school principal or any other official reasonable cause to search a student, an official will be able to search the student’s property.

Dogs may sniff the air around lockers, desks or vehicles on the district property or at district-sponsored events, as long as they are not allowed to sniff within the close proximity of any students.

In addition to appreciating the support shown by parents at the meeting, Whitlock said he feels that “99 percent of parents are going to welcome anything that we can do to make sure our facilities are drug-free.”

In order to prepare students and parents for the canine operations that could take place this year, and to help combat drug use on campus, Lt. Dominguez asks that parents be vigilant and aware of their children’s activities and talk with them about these issues.

Whitlock agrees, saying the steps the district is taking to keep students drug-free is just an effort to align itself with what most parents do every day as they work to keep their children as safe as possible. He feels that parents should strive to be more vocal about drug use.

“Parents sometimes underestimate the influence they have on their own children,” he said. “Parents are the first teachers and undoubtedly have the most amount of influence on children, so they must do all they can to teach their kids to resist the temptation of using drugs, tobacco and alcohol.”

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