Canine searches of schools need to become routine

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By The Staff

We all want safe schools: for our kids, our communities. Illegal drugs, drug sellers and weapons have no place in classrooms, hallways or lockers. That's why we were happy to hear that police dogs from several departments, including Tell City's own canine, Jago, visited Tell City schools last week. The dogs and their officer handlers led their dogs around lockers inside the schools. Outside, they led canines around vehicles in parking lots.

Nothing was found. We think that's a good sign. But we'd like to see searches continue, taking place two, three or four times a school year. School officials last week said there will be similar searches in the future. We hope they become routine.

The occasional presence of drug-sniffing dogs, as well as regular daytime visits by officers to schools, serves as a deterrent to students who might bring drugs to school. It's also putting a community asset to good use. Though often supported by donations, canine officers are public servants paid for our by tax dollars. We need to use their expertise as much as possible.

We know the presence of police in schools raises alarms for some. A few parents might think the visit last week indicates a suspicion of drug use or dealing in school. Others might consider it a violation of the rights of privacy of students, and perhaps staff, since dogs walked around teachers' cars Monday as well as students.

We're concerned about rights to privacy and undue searches, but schools aren't homes. They are in many ways public property and students and staff should not have the same expectations of privacy for what goes in their lockers or desk drawers there.

We know the abuse of illegal drugs and prescription medication by junior-high and high-school students takes place. To deny that is to ignore reality.

We would like to have heard that dogs were given the chance to sniff around the backpacks of students. That happened in a similar search at Heritage Hills recently, but didn't happen in Tell City last week. Maybe it will next time.

We're fortunate that our local schools don't require metal detectors at doorways or police stationed in hallways. We are happy to report about the occasional visit to schools by dogs trained to sniff out drugs. It's a common-sense practical way to help keep our schools and students safe.

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