New Canaan looks to police dogs to hunt for drugs on school campuses
NEW CANAAN — Expect to see K-9 dog units searching school property for illegal substances as soon as the coming school year.
“This would allow the handler and the canine to search lockers, cars and property (the handler) deem appropriate,” said Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi.
When asked about how a search would take place, Luizzi said the school would go on “lockdown” drills during the time of the search.
Luizzi said if a canine were to alert authorities to a specific locker, officials would ask the student to come out and the administration would conduct the search.
Dan Barrett, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut, said a policy like this could potentially make students feel like they were constantly under siege.
“Schools are supposed to be places where kids go to learn and not ramps for a school to prison pipeline,” Barrett said. “Without any kind of gargantuan problems happening at New Canaan, this policy is out of proportion.”
Barrett emphasized that students of color were more at danger from policies like these.
“We have to recognize that students of color are hurt worse by blanket surveillance school searches,” Barrett said. “When kids get the message that schools are not different than a prison, that displaces it as a supporting place of learning.”
The dog policy comes on the heels of a June agreement between police and schools that provides authorities access to internal school security cameras. The agreement with police representatives gives officers full access to in-school cameras in the event of a “life-safety emergency.”
On Monday, the Board of Education addressed the first reading of dog search policy that would allow school administrators to allow law enforcement officials to search school property with dogs specifically trained to detect illegal substances.
According to the draft policy, which has yet to be finalized at the board’s next meeting and is based on a model from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, if a student’s property is searched as a result of a dog alert, “the student’s parents shall be notified by the school administration.” Law enforcement will be authorized to “investigate and prosecute any person(s) found to be responsible for illegal substance(s) on school property.”
School officials, if they have “probable suspicion” can search an individual’s particular belongings but police officers, who need a “probable cause” would not be authorized to search as there are differences in standards. Responsibility would fall unto school officials to report anything of illegal nature to the police.
School board members referenced the models of a similar policy that neighboring towns employ like Monroe, Greenwich and Wilton.
Talks regarding a policy involving search dogs in the school has been brought up in previous years but this marks a formal approach toward implementing it.
As of press time Wednesday, Chief of Police Leon Krolikowski did not respond to requests for comment.
Regarding the conclusion of the meeting, Luizzi’s takeaway was that the board would be in favor of adopting the policy albeit with some possible modifications at their next meeting Aug. 20.
“I anticipate that we will be doing this at the high school primarily as a matter of good practice,” Luizzi said. “I’m confident that the board will support this policy. Once it’s passed we can revisit the policy and make adjustments if needed.”
If passed, parents would be informed about the policy via a handbook or school websites.
The discussion of this policy comes in the wake of another effort to address the use of illegal substances in town. New Canaan police and First Selectman Kevin Moynihan recently announced the website, DrugFreeNC, to help inform and educate residents in the community about drug recovery and support.
Luizzi noted that the use of searches would be used “prudently” but that the administration reserved the right to conduct them at any time.
“(With people knowing) that we can do this at any time, we expect it to serve as a deterrent to anyone wants to bring (illegal substances) to our property,” Luizzi said.