About two weeks ago I was contacted by Michelle Spitzer, a reporter from "Florida Today" a Gannett Newspaper for Brevard County. She had found, online, that Escambia County had begun a robust anti-drug campaign in our schools. She was particularly interested in the canine search component.
We had a long talk on the subject and I gave her some of the information we have compiled locally.
In yesterday's edition of Florida Today, the drug dog search issue was one of the lead stories, with significant mention of Escambia County. This article was also a featured story on yesterday's edition of "The Gradebook" blog from the St. Pete Times. From the Florida Today article:
In use elsewhere
Escambia County, which is in the Panhandle and includes Pensacola, invited drug-sniffing dogs into schools this year, as part of a wider anti-drug program.School board member Jeff Bergosh said the 40,000-student district has already seen results. During the 2007-08 school year, 75 students were expelled for drugs. The following year, that number increased to nearly 90 students. So far this year, expulsions have been cut in half.
"It's had a tremendous impact in that students know it's happening, and it's deterring them from bringing drugs to campus," Bergosh said. "It gives them a way to say no to the peer pressure."
Every day, the drug dogs randomly visit one to three middle or high schools. Initially dogs visited only one of the district's 16 middle or high schools per day. That changed when students started texting friends at other schools, telling them they were "safe."
Searches include common areas, parking lots and lockers and classrooms. When a dog searches a classroom, students move to another area and leave their backpacks behind. The dogs do not search the students. Escambia County uses off-duty canine officers, which Bergosh said helped cut the costs down to about $36,000. The district's other initiatives include a student campaign against drugs and testing athletes.
"The proof will be in the pudding at the end of the year," Bergosh said. "If we wouldn't have taken the bull by the horn, it wouldn't have happened."
Read the article here
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