1. Archive

Drug dogs-in-schools idea is still on a leash

It's not entirely clear if drug-sniffing dogs will make random appearances at high schools in Hillsborough County next year.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told the Tampa Bay Times recently it is pretty far along in a plan to bring the dogs into school, in response to an apparent increase in marijuana use.

That was news to some School Board members.

"This board member has not heard about it," said board chairwoman April Griffin, who learned about the plan from our news report on Saturday. "I was not informed. I have a one-on-one tomorrow [with superintendent MaryEllen Elia] and I can tell you it will be discussed."

An email to board members from the district's communications office described the idea as speculative - not really a plan, but the subject of ongoing discussions between the district and its law enforcement partners.

Nevertheless, Griffin said, since the idea is bound to be controversial, she'd have wanted to be in the loop a lot sooner.

"That being said, I don't know how I feel about it," Griffin said. "I have to be careful about what I say. But I am apprehensive. I understand that the world we live in has changed from what it was like years ago. But I do not want to live in a police state. I don't want our schools to look like TSA. We're talking about armed guards at the elementary schools and, at the same time, drug-sniffing dogs. The combination, for me, is a bit troubling."

Members Cindy Stuart and Susan Valdes, similarly, said they would have wanted to be brought into the conversation sooner. "I don't want to learn about something like this in the newspaper," Stuart said, adding that she has not seen evidence that the searches are needed. Valdes called the idea "attrocious," and potentially damaging to the trust the district is trying to build between students and law enforcement.

Both issues -- whether the board should have been informed and whether the idea itself is a good one -- could come up during a 1 p.m. workshop Tuesday. On Tuesday. The subject is African-American male students, their high suspension rates and academic achievements.

var doubleClickAd_1348699802594 = ''; document.write(doubleClickAd_1348699802594);