Drug-, weapon-sniffing dogs set to visit Fayette’s middle and high schools

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Stock photo of drug-sniffing dog at a set of lockers. Photo/Shutterstock.
Stock photo of drug-sniffing dog at a set of lockers. Photo/Shutterstock.

BoE’s Presberg opposes — 

Some Fayette County public schools beginning in the first semester of the new school year will embark on a pilot school safety and security program that will have drug and weapons-sniffing dogs visiting middle and high schools.

Superintendent Jody Barrow at the April 22 meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education said the school system has been working with Interquest Detection Canines to implement the pilot program, with the focus on middle and high schools.

“There was no specific incident or incidents that prompted the decision to implement the Interquest services,” said school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.” We are constantly reviewing our safety plans and looking for ways to better serve and protect our schools. While we work (and will continue working) with our local law enforcement to bring the K-9’s in periodically, they are very limited in the number of schools they can serve, and are also limited as to the frequency.”

Barrow during the discussion said the idea is to have a trial period during the first semester next school year, recognizing that the approach is new to the school system.

“We’re going to watch this very carefully, and if it proves to be beneficial we might want to come back for a longer term agreement,” Barrow said.

The vote after the brief discussion was 4-1, with board member Leonard Presberg opposed.

Presberg prior to the vote said, “I feel like we’re good at eroding individual privacy rights and that we’re kind of giving up on the Fourth Amendment.”

Presberg also noted that, while he understood the reasoning on the basis of school safety and security, “I’m not sure this helps us build relationships with students who already feel they’re in an oppressive situation or system.”

Berry-Dreisbach after the meeting said school system staff is currently working with the company to determine the number of visits that will fit the school system’s needs.

“One great component of the service is that it is completely customized to fit our needs,” Berry-Dreisbach said. “The school board gave us the approval to pilot the service for the first semester of 2019. Each visit will most likely consist of half-day at a high school, a quarter-day at a middle school and a quarter-day at the alternative school.

Berry-Dreisbach said the visits will be unannounced. The dogs will be trained in the detection of illegal drugs, alcohol and firearms, she said.

A visit to the Interquest Detection Canines website noted that the company works with schools and industry.

“Our comprehensive detection and deterrence program reduces the presence of drugs, alcoholic beverages, abused medications and weapons on campus and school grounds. We accomplish this through the use of highly trained detection canines,” the company said.

Interquest said its service eliminates the need to “lock down” a campus, thereby minimizing the interruption of the education process.

3 COMMENTS

  1. God have mercy on my soul… I am in agreement with Leonard Presburg on something. He is acting in the capacity of the Liberal Left of old – the ones who were staunch defenders of civil liberties and the basic rights of persons. My question is: where are the “True Conservatives™” with your concern for government overreach, eliminating waste, stopping fraud, and preventing abuse? I get… what… the chirping of crickets? Perhaps the bleating of sheep? Don’t answer. There’s an opportunity for bridging the polar divide of American politics here, and the right is positively somnambulant towards it.

    Presburg’s lone voice of concern over civil liberties is absolutely on point. We have already granted government schools extraordinary latitude over our children under the guise of protecting them from the evils of drugs and guns. Warrantless searches of lockers, desks, unattended bookbags, and cars parked on school property are already a standard tool in the school administrators toolbox for rooting out potentially bad actors. The children that we are supposed to be educating with an eye towards making them into functional members of society are down to one single protection: that reasonable suspicion is required in order to conduct a search of their person (New Jersey v. T.L.O., 1985). We can toss out ‘reasonable’ for that matter; The high court has not articulated a standard for it. Instead, they have focused on ‘probable cause’, the standard required any other time the government wants to have a peek into your underwear. And what more convenient method exists to sidestep this issue than to farm out law enforcement to a private company which is not subject to any oversight from any professional standards organization what-so-ever?

    In case it’s not clear, Interquest Detection Canines isn’t a government law enforcement agency. It’s a Limited Liability Company. In fact, it’s a franchise. So I want you parents who are concerned about protecting your children to consider what level of comfort you have in allowing strangers with an unknown level of skills and experience to come into your child’s school with a dog of unknown pedigree and training and to be placed in a position to bring suspicion and doubt on your child. If it helps, I offer the following: In a 2011 study* published in the Journal of Animal Cognition, a double-blind peer-reviewed scientific experiment on drug-sniffing dogs confirmed that dogs falsely identified the presence of drugs 85% of the time. In the other 15% of cases, the dog did correctly identify that there were no drugs at all. The conclusion found that the dogs were ignoring their sense of smell and instead were responding to subtle cues from the dog handler in hopes of getting a reward. I also offer you the case of young Lezley Whipple, who was falsely accused of being involved with illegal drugs precisely because a poorly trained handler and an un-certified dog signaled on her car.** Long story short – the Whipple family sued the handler and the school district with the help of the ACLU and won a settlement. One of the more shocking outcomes was the discovery that the specific canine involved had falsely alerted 71 out of 72 times during searches that year. That’s what “reasonable suspicion” looks like.

    Presburg’s next point about ‘building relationships with students’ is extraordinarily salient. Experimenting with intoxicants and engaging in violent behaviors is a key characteristic of adolescent psychosocial development. The role of parents is to guide your mouthy, sarcastic, edgy, and angsty teen through this period of risk-prone behaviors by maintaining communication and by building a social framework of role models that surround and protect these kids from themselves and each other. Where do drug-sniffing dogs fit into that model? They don’t. Neither do armed security. School administrators are increasingly blurring the lines between how you manage a population of school kids and how you manage a population of convicts. The School to Prison Pipeline isn’t a leftist talking point. It’s a bleak reality that used to only affect schools in crime-ridden urban areas but is increasingly becoming a fixture in middle-class suburban areas like our own. That’s why we have an “alternative school”. And parents are increasingly abdicating their role in protecting and guiding children to otherwise disinterested bureaucrats and pharmacists. Consider that for a society that has become all-too-comfortable pumping our kids full of Adderal (which is just legalized crystal meth) and Ritalin (a molecular analog of cocaine), we are peculiarly concerned with keeping “hard drugs” out of our schools to the extent that we’ll happily shred the Constitution and sacrifice a kid or two in the process. And for a society that clutches its pearls in the rare circumstance that a child does take a gun to school and kill a classmate, we are willfully ignorant to the reality that 28 children each school day commit suicide. What kind of message about the worth of young adults are we sending here? And why are we surprised that our children do what they do?

    A few years ago, the Santa Barbara Unified School District terminated their four-year experiment with a local Interquest Detection Canines franchise there. At a cost of $13,500/yr, the program only resulted in 37 hits. The administrators there concluded that the dogs were only detecting drugs after the fact, and likely weren’t doing anything to prevent drugs from coming into the schools. Most of the 260 drug-related suspensions each year resulted from student tips or random searches.

    Our schools have better things to spend money on than treating kids like Future Felons of America. Hat’s off to Presburg for reminding us.

    * Handler beliefs affect scent detection dog outcomes. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-010-0373-2

    ** 60 Minutes: Does The Nose Know? Some Drug And Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Are Unreliable. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/does-the-nose-know/

    *** Wikipedia: Current policies maintaining the link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School-to-prison_pipeline#Current_policies_maintaining_the_link

    **** Noozhawk: Santa Barbara High Schools Will Likely Drop Drug-Detection Dogs As Contraband Deterrent. https://www.noozhawk.com/article/santa_barbara_high_schools_likely_drop_drug_detection_dogs