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DD2 Board Members Discuss Use of K9s in Schools to Enhance Safety



Dorchester County, S.C. - Board Members at today's 2 and 1/2 hour workshop with LE and County Emergency Management officials included Ashley Wimberly, Justin Farnsworth, Barbara Crosby, and Kellie Bates.


The climax of the meeting was about the use of weapon-detection K9s in schools with Kellie Bates arguing for the use of free TSA K9s and Law Enforcement officials (LE) suggesting that DD2 should explore the use of their dogs. Justin Farnsworth noted that it appears everyone present is for exploring the additional presence of K9s in our schools.


Dr. Robbins asked LE if they would explore what could be offered and he agreed to contact TSA about the use of their K9s too. He envisioned being able to present an approach to the Board by the end of May.


A brief discussion also occurred about K9s that were used several years ago where parents complained about the dog search at a school in an adjacent county. Apparently, students were removed from classrooms and taken into the hallways while dogs were sent into individual classrooms.


Not discussed at this meeting was the need, if any, to update Policy AR JIH-R, Student Interrogations, Searches and Arrests which was last updated in 2017.


The Policy says, in part:


"Accordingly, school officials will only utilize trained dogs on district property under the following circumstances:


Only trained and proven reliable dogs may be utilized on school grounds.


Dogs will be under the control, direction, and supervision of a trained dog handler and will be on a leash or subject to appropriate restraint at all times.


Dogs will only be utilized when determined to be reasonable under all the circumstances by the school principal or his/her designee.


Dogs will not sniff an individual unless determined to be reasonable in all respects under the section above; however, actual physical contact between dogs and individuals should be avoided."


Some concerns:


1) Probably not a good idea to leave the determination of the reasonableness for a K9 search solely up to a school principal particularly without any Board guidance as to how often or what areas are permitted to be targeted during the school year;


2) there's no mention here of posted notices of potential searches to mitigate any due process warning claims, and 3) there ought to be justification in policy to support a minimal number of K9 searches in parking lots and schools. For example, the average of the last three years indicates that a weapon was brought to a DD2 district school X times and that presents a clear and present danger to staff and students.


With the removal of lockers in DD2 and as the most recent events suggest, students are now much more likely to possess drugs and weapons on their person. Nevertheless, random K9 sweeps of parking lots and schools on a limited basis and with posted notice could have an outsized impact on deterring contraband on campus.


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