Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 2:19 am | Fair 68º


Santa Barbara School District Considers Using Drug-Detection Dogs

The Board of Trustees decides to look further into the proposal, which calls for canines to search high school classrooms at random

The Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Trustees is considering a contract for drug-sniffing dogs to randomly search its secondary school campuses.

District policy allows for searches of students, their property or district property by specially trained, nonaggressive dogs, but they haven’t been used yet, according to student services director Marlin Sumpter.

The proposed contract from Interquest Detection Canines, which the board will discuss further in two weeks, would have two half-day visits per high school every month at a total cost of $1,230 per month.

Sumpter said dogs would search classrooms at random and areas of campus such as parking lots.

“The major effectiveness of this program is a deterrent” since the visits are unannounced and any classroom could be searched, he said. Most of the alerts are from residual odors, such as a spilled alcoholic beverage.

Superintendent David Cash said the Claremont Unified School District, where he worked previously, contracted with local law enforcement for the dogs and the majority of parents approved of the program, “especially when they heard how unobtrusive it is.”

Students and staff leave the randomly selected classrooms while dogs examine backpacks and other belongings.

Trustee Susan Deacon, who saw the demonstration in June, said one of the dogs is a mellow, yellow Labrador retriever that sat down to signal he found something.

Board members asked for outreach into the community and for staff to develop specific procedures to guarantee consistent, fair implementation. They also asked district staff members to consider what would happen if a teacher’s belongings set off an alert.

Trustee Monique Limon said the district needs to make it clear that a deterrent will not stop students from using drugs.

There were 300 alcohol- and drug-related incidents last year, Sumpter said, which includes students in possession, under the influence or selling them.

In recent years, controlled substance-related issues contributed to half of the district’s expulsions. For 2009-10, there were 40 expulsions for the secondary schools and 532 violence/drug-related suspensions — out of a junior high and high school total enrollment of 9,882.

The 2010-11 California Healthy Kids Survey asks about lifetime use of alcohol, inhalants, illicit and prescription drugs to get high, and adolescents overwhelmingly use alcohol and marijuana as their drugs of choice.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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