Drug-Sniffing Dogs Debut in Madison, Wisconsin Schools

The School Board in Madison, Wisconsin, voted 5-1 this week to allow the use of police dogs in drug searches on school property. The proposal was introduced in response to a 60% increase in drug-related violations across the district since 2007. In approving the use of the dogs, the board members said that the measure will help curb drug use and drug-trafficking, as well as decrease narcotic-related violence.

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray stressed that the use of the dogs would be a step up in school cleanup efforts since they would make searches quicker, more thorough and colorblind. The dogs are trained to sniff out cocaine, marijuana and heroin. The police will only use the dogs if asked to do so by the principals of the schools, and students themselves will not be searched. The cost will be covered by the police department.

Madison is not the only district that has used dogs for drug searches on school grounds. Earlier this month, the state police in Wabash Valley, Indiana brought in K-9s to assist in drug searches at South Vermillion and North Vermillion High Schools. The dogs sniffed cars, hallways and over 1,000 lockers, something that would have taken police officers much longer to do unassisted.

“These dogs are highly trained. They’re highly trained for illicit drugs, and it takes them only a matter of seconds to do a complete hallway searching for illicit drugs, Sgt. Joe Watts with the Indiana State Police said.

The dogs in Wabash were brought in at the request of the schools’ principals. The Madison scheme proposes to deploy the dogs in similar way.

In Wabash, the searches didn’t turn up any narcotics, which is something that doesn’t surprise the opponents of their use. Although the survey conducted in the months prior to the board vote showed overwhelming support for the use of the dogs, those who oppose it claim that dogs either miss drugs often or signal false-positives that create problems for students, especially low-income ones whose parents cannot afford lawyers.

“Schools have already become a prison with locked doors and cameras,” and dogs won’t help create a caring, nurturing environment, said Erin Proctor, who works at Jefferson Middle School.