HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Dogs Would Cost Schools
Pubdate: Fri, 09 Jan 2004
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Marisa Babic
Bookmark: (Youth)


If Surrey school trustees want drug dogs to sniff school lockers, they'll 
have to hire a private security firm at a cost of roughly $50,000 a year 
because the RCMP can't spare the officers or canines.

Theresa Campbell, manager of safe schools for the Surrey school district, 
says staff was informed by the Surrey RCMP in November that the detachment 
can't afford to partner with the school district on the proposed drug dog 

"We have been told by the Surrey RCMP they just do not have the resources 
to do it," Campbell said Monday.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the drug dog proposal, modeled on 
American schools, is dead.

Campbell says trustees still have the option of hiring a private security 
firm to provide the service.

"We haven't dismissed it at this time. We just need to take a closer look 
at it now that it's very clear that if we are going to pursue it, it's 
going to have to be through a private security firm," she said.

Campbell estimates it would cost between $40,000 and $50,000 a year to 
conduct three or four random searches of lockers at Surrey's 18 high 
schools, funds that would have to come out of the school district's tight 
operating budget.

School board vice-chairman Shawn Wilson said trustees haven't had a chance 
to discuss the issue yet but mused that debate about the highly 
controversial issue should make for some "interesting discussion" at the 
board table.

Trustees are set to begin budget deliberations next week.

"At the moment I don't know if trustees would be interested in setting 
aside budget money for that. I guess that's something we'd have to look at 
as we see what kind of shape we're in," he said.

As a concept, Wilson doesn't oppose the use of drug dogs to search lockers. 
He described the option as "another tool in the bag that we can pull out" 
to combat drugs.

But he wondered whether searches by a private security firm would stand up 
to legal scrutiny.

"If you're going to go as far as that to try and curtail whatever drug 
activity goes on at schools, I think you have to have the arm of the law on 
your side," he said.

Campbell also expressed concern that searches by private companies may fall 
prey to more legal loopholes and she worries about the "mixed message" that 
may send to students.

For the same reason, Campbell believes that if trustees commit to the 
program it's vital that they continue to support it and not abandon it when 
funding gets tighter.

"You don't want to launch something you can't support," she said.

The issue of drug dogs in schools arose about a couple of years ago when 
Surrey Electors Team members of council and SET trustees formed the 
Drug-Crime Task Force.

The city and school district have since split up and formed separate 
sub-committees, drafting their own drug fighting initiatives.

The proposal attracted a storm of controversy and was slammed by the B.C. 
Civil Liberties Association and others as an infringement on privacy rights.

Wilson agrees that the issues surrounding Canadian constitutional rights 
"is not really clear yet."
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