HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Dogs In Schools?
Pubdate: Sun, 27 Oct 2002
Source: Surrey Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Surrey Leader
Author:  Kevin Diakiw


Surrey schools may soon be subject to random patrols by drug dogs, 
particularly in the south, where teens dealing and possessing illegal drugs 
is a growing concern.

The random dog patrol is one of the options being considered by Surrey's 
recently formed drug-crime task force, a group of 27 experts and elected 
officials seeking new ways to reduce substance abuse and its associated crime.

Surrey school Trustee Heather Stilwell told The Leader Monday the use of 
dogs and random searches by school principals are both being considered as 
elements to tackle the issue.

In addition, the school board is looking for a "no-tolerance" policy 
whereby students caught with drugs are dealt with severely. The 
district-wide curriculum is being retooled to include drug awareness 
education at earlier grades.

"Ten years ago, I never would have dreamed we would have drug education in 
Grades 4 though 7," Stilwell told Surrey council during a presentation on 
Monday. "It breaks my heart."

Stilwell was one of several people addressing city council at a drug-crime 
task force update. Other speakers included Surrey-North MP Chuck Cadman, 
Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Brenda Locke and Dr. Roland Guasparini with the 
Fraser Health Authority.

Most of the discussion surrounded fighting drug abuse in its early stages, 
before kids drop out of school and hit the streets.

Indications are that drug abuse isn't isolated to traditional boundaries, 
with much of it occurring in South Surrey schools. Stilwell couldn't say 
which, if any, were notably bad.

"I don't know, I've just had it described as the south," Stilwell said.

She understands the use of drug dogs could be controversial, but believes 
that once students get word that drug-sniffing canines are patrolling the 
schools, dealers will take their business elsewhere.

RCMP Const. Mike Elston agrees.

School liaison for South Surrey, he says the issue may be no worse in his 
area, but it's certainly no better.

"Whether their parents make a million dollars a year, or thirty grand a 
year, it makes absolutely no difference," Elston says. "It's an issue 
that's out there, that they (students) all want to know about."

However, the drug dog solution could be subject to legal challenge.

The task force will have to hire a private firm to provide dog patrols 
because the RCMP require "probable cause" to search school lockers. The 
private firm being considered is Port Coquitlam's Black Tower Security.

Stilwell says school board staff are examining what other legal 
ramifications might exist.

She also understands that some people will be critical of the approach, 
which she believes could be the first in Canada.

One of those critics is Murray Mollard, the executive director for B.C. 
Civil Liberties Association, who says the dog patrol is short-sighted.

"It would extend that war mentality into the schools," Mollard says. "When 
they bring the drug-sniffing dogs in, forget about this just being a 
school-based rule, anyone caught with drugs, no matter how minor the 
amount, is likely going to be prosecuted."

Rick Fabbro, principal of Elgin Park Secondary school, says he doesn't mind 
the dog patrols as long as they're carried out with dignity and respect.

Const. Elston says anything that can reduce the amount of drug use in 
schools must be considered.

"I won't ever guarantee we're going to eradicate the drug problem," Elston 
says. "What we're trying to teach these kids is that the school is a place 
of learning. It is not a place to fight, do drugs, drink, and do all those 
destructive things."

Task force chair Dianne Watts says the drug dogs could be in use by the end 
of the year.
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