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School Board Considers Changes to Drug-Dog Searches

Potentially, the program could expand to St. Louis Park Junior High.

The St. Louis Park School Board is considering expanding its use of drug-detecting dogs to help keep illegal substances out of local schools.

Currently, dogs search common areas, such as hallways and bathrooms, about eight times per year. On Monday, principal Les Bork said he'd like to see the searches come to his school, too.

"It's been non-controversial, and it's been effective," Bork said.

The program has been in place at the high school since 2004, and though senior high principal Rob Metz said there are usually only a few busts per year—if any—both he and Bork said they think it helps keep the school safe.

The district contracts with Metro Canine Detection Services for the searches, which are done in the high school common areas while students are in class. Junior high searches would be conducted in the same fashion. Bork said like at the high school, the junior high would have up to eight searches per year, at a cost of about $100 per visit.

"In a cost-effective manner, we'd like to make our school safer," Bork said. "We're excited about this (possibility)."

At the same time, Metz said he would support expanding the program at the high school by adding random classroom searches to the mix.

"It gives us one more tool," Metz said. "It also sends a message that we're committed to this process."

The classroom searches, which would also occur about eight times per year, would require students to leave the room as a dog, a handler and a school administrator enter. However, they would likely only take about five to eight minutes, assistant principal Scott Meyers said.

Expanding drug-dog searches into the junior high, as well as into senior high classrooms, would not be unprecedented locally. Currently, has about eight searches in its senior and junior highs annually—classrooms included.

Bloomington schools do roughly the same as BSM, while Hopkins, Minnetonka and Richfield all search just their high schools. Those last three schools do not use classroom searches. Edina schools have no searches at all.

Metz, Bork and Meyers said they will do more research on the issue before anything goes formally to the board for a vote.

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