With unanimous Board of Education approval Tuesday evening, a Canine-assisted drug/alcohol sweep could happen at Canton High/Middle School during the 2012-2013 school year.
The policy is not a new one but gives the administration the authority to conduct a sweep for "illegal substances or contraband" during the school year, provided Superintendent Kevin Case and school administrators take other required steps.
Case said those have been accomplished, such as inclusion of the policy in the student handbook and announcements to all students at the beginning of the year.
Students were assembled and told there are no private areas at school, including lockers and vehicles.
“All are subject to search,” Case said.
As part of a report to the board each year, Case also reported on incidents involving illegal substances at the school. In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 8 individuals found in possession of drugs and/or paraphernalia, three of which were arrested and issued a juvenile summons. So far this year, two students have been found in violation, he said.
That number partially accounts for whether administrators ask to conduct a sweep. The approval does not guarantee one will happen but authorizes it, school officials said.
Responding to a board member's question about why there was no search last year, Case said it was largely a scheduling issue that prevented securing the use of dogs from an out-of-town agency. Canton currently does not have a police canine.
Case also said a sweep has actually not been done since June of 2008. That action resulted in a lawsuit. According to this Associated Press-run story at Boston.com, a lawsuit was filed by a group of parents in 2009. According to the article and other media coverage the school successfully defended the suit in lower courts. According to media reports, the main plaintiff appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which eventually dismissed the case, in part because the student central to it had already graduated.
Case did not comment on the case Tuesday night but did acknowledge that the policy was amended after the incident.
For example, according to the Associated Press article, students were held in their classrooms during the sweep but 15 were then called out while police searched their lockers or cars.
The current policy states that students will "stay put" in their classrooms during a sweep but that an administrator or principal will search lockers and vehicles that were the site of dog “alerts" after police and the canine handlers leave the premises. It also states that it would be done with the student or a witness present.
Read the full policy here.