Sniffing Around Venice High for Drugs! 

Sniffing Around Venice High for Drugs! 
Posted by FoM on December 26, 1998 at 11:18:25 PT

 Bud Jacobs, principal at Venice High School, spoke to Voices about a controversial one-year pilot program in which dogs would be brought onto the campus to sniff for illegal substances. Mary Reese Boykin spoke with Jacobs about how the program is working. 
   I held assemblies at the beginning of the school year with the trainer and our two Labradors: Penny and Bandit. On the stage, the trainer hid a small bottle of liquor, a cotton swab of gunpowder and cocaine. When the dogs got the scent of these items, they got a toy as a reward.   We have had four visits. There were five alerts where the dog sensed something. During one alert, the dog sniffed the scent of marijuana from a purse that a girl had lent her sister over the weekend. In another case, the dog sniffed the smell of gunpowder from a rag that a boy's father, who is a security officer, had used to clean his gun. But there have been no finds.   Students have adjusted well to the presence of the dogs on campus. When the dogs aren't working, the students pet them. When a special harness is put on the dogs, then students know that the dogs are working. When students are in class, the dogs go to work, sniffing lockers.   The dogs can pick up the smell of marijuana off a pencil. If there is an alert, we question the kid. The parent will be called and told, "Today, the dog alerted us on your child. He wasn't in possession, but there was a scent, and for us, a suspicion."   I feel good about this program. When we entered it, I wondered how effective it would be. Its strength is as a deterrent, not in apprehension. And that's what we should try to do with kids, not to catch them but to discourage them.   There is something else that is significant: The dogs provide blind justice; they take out questionable variables--ones that occur sometimes when metal detectors are used--like race, size and the gender of students. 
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