Some Say “No” To Drug-Sniffing Dogs

Posted on 08 February 2012

By Claire Walla


For some parents and community members, measures the Sag Harbor School District is taking to combat the use of drugs and alcohol among students is aggressive — too aggressive.

“Do we want our middle and high school building to mimic a prison?” parent Marianna Levine asked school board members at a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

Levine said she shared her perspective with several other parents of children in the Sag Harbor School District who strongly oppose the use of drug-sniffing dogs on campus. She argues that bringing in a police K-9 unit would essentially create a dynamic similar to a “totalitarian state” where students are stripped of their rights.

Community member Leah Oppenheimer also expressed her concerns with bringing drug-sniffing dogs on campus.

“I’m really worried about the link of trust between the children and [the administration],” she said. “Dogs don’t have a good reputation. They really signify something scary, even if the intent behind it is good.”

Elementary school parent Lawrence LaRose agreed.

“This is going to erode the bond that this school has with its students,” he said.

And by forcing all students to stay in classrooms during a sniff search based on evidence that some students have been found in possession of drugs, LaRose further contended, “You’re putting that suspicion on all students.”

Levine took particular issue with the notion that the school would go into what it called a “lock-down” scenario at the time of the so-called drug sniff.

“That’s a prison term,” she said.

During the course of the meeting, several board members expressed a keen interest in changing the terminology for the school’s lock-down procedure so that it would be referred to as a “safety check” instead, as Levine suggested.

However, Dr. John Gratto, the district’s superintendent, said the board disagreed with some of Levine’s comments.

“We certainly don’t think you’re correct in saying it would engender a police state,” he stated. “We have, as a basic philosophy, a desire to build relationships with students. Some of you have characterized this as an either/or issue; I don’t think it is. We’ll still continue to build relationships with students, [drug-sniffing dogs] are just another deterrent to keep kids free of drugs and alcohol.”

School Board President Mary Anne Miller added, “Where this conversation came from and why we got here today was never about putative measures.”

She said that based on survey results conducted by an organization called OASIS, the board has determined that the use of drugs and alcohol among students needs to decrease.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction,” she continued. “This is something that’s always on the table here.”

Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols added to that by explaining he is currently working to finalize a community coalition to prevent substance abuse. It’s made up of people from 12 different constituents from the community, including parents, teachers, police officers, doctors and even students.

“The goal of the coalition would be to look at what we’re doing comprehensively to lessen the likelihood that students would engage in drugs and drinking,” Nichols said. “Hopefully, we can address this in a way that involves different parts of the community to get different perspectives on the issue.”

Levine said she was pleased to hear that the school would be working to counsel students who may be found in possession of drugs as a consequence of drug-sniffing dogs on campus, and encouraged by the start of the coalition Nichols is putting together.

“I do appreciate that they’ve started the conversation on this,” she said. “And I have some hope that maybe the community coalition will come up with some better counseling solutions.”

However, she said she is still adamantly opposed to having drug-sniffing police units on campus.

“I just believe that the energy they’ve put into the dogs can be better spent looking into counseling programs,” she said.

“I think alcohol is the big problem at the school,” she continued. “And I don’t think the dogs are going to help with that.”

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7 Responses to “Some Say “No” To Drug-Sniffing Dogs”

  1. Jennifer says:

    If you’re kids are good kids, you have nothing to worry about. If your child is using drugs and you are unaware of their use and their locker is found to have drugs in it you could be getting a jump start on a possible addiction. Too many parents say their kids wouldn’t use drugs, their blind to what’s going on outside of their home. Our kids are going to school in a way we never imagined, where guns and drugs and knives are brought in to the one place parents think their children as safest. Any way of preventing addiction of one child in our community is a good thing. Look at the big picture. Why wait for tragedy and then blame the school for not having done enough. And personally i’d like to know that the dogs are able to sniff out gunpowder in a locker, prevent that horrible possiblity.

  2. Miata says:

    A comment was made by a school board member about a month ago about bringing dog biscuits during these so called lock downs when a dog is being walked through the campus.

    Several years ago at an event, a young woman attempted to pet one of these dogs who’s police handler happened for a moment to be looking the other way. The animal bit her in the hand and arm badly, requiring over two hundred stitches.

    This is not a game. The personnel are highly trained and highly armed and they mean business. This should be conducted after school hours. I would be surprised if Suffolk County PD or the troopers would even entertain an idea like this.

    If your thinking it’s some cute blood hound like Jed Clampett’s in the Beverly Hillbillies, your living in la-la land.

  3. Elementary School Parent #1 says:

    @ Jennifer – I deplore the idea of “if your kid is a good kid they have nothing to worry about” – this mentality is why we all get molested when we fly from Point A to Point B and we will soon have drones patrolling our skies watching and recording us all 24/7.
    That being said the dogs do treat all students equally – no one is being singled out because of the way they dress, who they hang out with or because some snitch has thrown another kid under the bus, so to speak.
    Hearsay is not allowed in court for a reason – but this is not a courtroom. There is a problem with some 8th graders and it is not just pot. The goal here is to help those who have started doing drugs and prevent others from ever getting started. We are talking about kids’ futures – even their lives. Drug-sniffing dogs seems like a reasonable intrusion – better than a TSA pat down.

  4. Officer Snook says:

    Say YES to the K9 dogs……..It is about keeping ALL students safe…and especially while on school property………The students would not bring their “drugs” to school if they did not know when the dogs were going to be coming through…. It is about choices…. and we as parents need to STOP making excuses for our children’s poor choices….

  5. John Barrett says:

    According to my son Ian, the students at Pierson High School treated the OASIS survey as a joke and purposefully exaggerated their “drug” use. In typical knee-jerk fashion, the administrators and board members took the “data” and determined a real problem existed. If you want to build a bond with students, stop assuming that the actions of the few are the actions of the many. The real issue here — which was rightfully identified by some concerned parents — is the growing trampling of our rights by a society that spends entirely too much criminalizing behavior and assuming that people are guilty until proven innocent. If the administrators at Pierson were really doing their job (which they’re not), they would form real bonds with students and quickly identify the small percentage of students doing drugs and get them the counseling and help they need. I guess it’s easier to call in the dogs, say the problem is “corrected,” and sell it to the public. Remember, school administrators and police are public servants…not public masters.

  6. Jennifer says:

    @Elem school parent, re-read my sentence (you have nothing to worry about. you as the parent who believes that their child wouldn’t do drugs).and it has nothing to do with our children not getting from point a to b safely, that is not something the school needs to teach our children. making sure your children know how to handle a situation of personal safety needs to be a parents reminder to the child almost daily. Ican’t believe so many are more worried about the trampling of “our” rights moreso than a student getting high at last period, then when school is dismissed getting into a car with posssibly one of your children as passanger or pedistrian. if that can be prevented, why not do it. We are now leaving it to the teachers to figure out which child maybe doing drugs? Are you telling me there won’t be parents up in arms over a teacher telling them they have no proof but they think your child may be doing drugs? I’m sure there won’t be offended parents over that. I can’t get over the mentality of “not in our school”, this can’t happen in our community. The glory days of our safe and innocent village are over. children stay on school grounds or leave and drink or get high, women are in danger of jogging along long beach, these things are a reality. Drugs kill, why not take these measures to prevent that?


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