Proposal would place police dog at Homestead

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Barked: Thu Mar 23, '06 9:11pm PST 
Southwest Allen County Schools and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department want to put a full-time police dog at Homestead High School to deter students from bringing drugs and guns onto campus. The move would make it the first school in Indiana to do so, officials said.
Under a proposal presented to SACS board members Tuesday night, the sheriff’s department would train a Labrador retriever to detect drugs and weapons, as well as to track students if they disappear from school during the day. That training would take place this summer, with the dog being placed in the school starting next fall, said the district’s school resource officer, A.J. Pape.
The dog also would go into SACS’ two middle schools occasionally and would be used for educational purposes at the elementary level. Pape said it also could be used to keep drugs and weapons out of sporting events.
“When the dogs are in the schools, the drugs and weapons leave the schools,” Pape said.
Homestead currently brings in dogs to search lockers and the parking lot, but there is no constant presence, and those searches cover only a small portion of the school. School officials and Pape rely mostly on students and parents to report drugs or weapons on campus. Last year, SACS had 17 incidents in which students were expelled for weapons, drugs or alcohol, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Of those, 16 involved Homestead students.
Anita Gross, SACS social worker, estimated the move would cost the district an additional $700 a year and would be used to increase Pape’s salary because of the additional responsibilities he would take on with the dog. Pape said he would complete a 12-week training course this summer and would care for the dog full time afterward. SACS plans to raise funds and seek out volunteer services to cover vet, food and grooming expenses.
Pape, members of the sheriff’s department and district officials have been working on the proposal for about six months, after Pape heard of the idea at a National School Safety conference. Few schools have dogs, but those with them have seen significant drops in drug- and weapon-related incidents, Pape said.
“Southwest Allen is a leader in school safety,” Pape said. “It fit in with being a forerunner. Anytime you are proposing something that takes drugs and weapons out of schools, it’s hard to take a negative stance.”
Gross said she plans to bring the proposal back for the board to vote on at its next meeting March 28.