Drug-sniffing dogs from the Rhode Island State Police Canine Corps swept the interior of Mt. Hope High School this morning, checking lockers and the corridors while students were in class.
The sweep was conducted at 9:15 a.m., and parents and students were not notified before it took place. At no time did the dogs have contact with the students.
Citing an increase in disciplinary actions at the high school over the past three years, school administrators along with the Bristol Police Department and the Rhode Island State Police Canine Corps, conducted the sweep as part of the administration’s action plan to address the problem.
“It’s a deterrent,” said Melinda Thies, Superintendent of the Bristol Warren Regional School District. “It sends a very strong message to students that we’re watching over them and protecting them.”
In a press release posted to the school district’s website today, Ms. Thies said that there had been an increase in students being suspended at the high school “for being under the influence or in possession of controlled or illegal substances.”
This is the first time in the school’s history that drug dogs have been used as a preventative measure at Mt. Hope, Ms. Thies said.
The results of the sweep were not readily available. If the dogs did find anything, school administrators would follow the district’s disciplinary protocol, which can be found in the school’s handbook.
The entirety of the superintendent’s letter is below:
The Bristol Warren Regional School District’s first priority is the health and safety of its students. Without an optimum learning environment, students cannot access a quality education. Due to an increase over a three year period in the number of disciplinary incidents at Mt. Hope High School that involve students being suspended from school for being under the influence or in possession of controlled or illegal substances, the high school administrative team, the superintendent, and the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Bristol Police Department have been meeting on a regular basis to develop an action plan to identify intervention strategies to deter such incidents at Mt. Hope High School.
In partnership with the Bristol Police Department, the administrative team developed an action plan to conduct canine sweeps of MHHS in 2013-2014 to ensure that the school is a substance-free campus. Research for this action included data collection of disciplinary infractions, outreach by Principal Donald Rebello to his administrative colleagues in the state regarding the use and protocols for canine sweeps, and contact with the RI State Police Department by Bristol Police Chief Canario. Through this research, it was determined that the following districts conduct regular canine sweeps of their high school campuses utilizing the RI State Police Department: Chariho, Coventry, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Smithfield, Warwick and Westerly.
On Feb. 26, 2014 at approximately 9:15 am, the RI State Police Canine Corps conducted a canine sweep of the interior of the MHHS campus. Search dogs guided by certified State Police personnel and a MHHS administrator conducted sweeps of the corridors and lockers while students were retained in their classrooms. At no time did the RI State Police Canine Corps make physical contact with students.
Per the directive of the Bristol Police Department, the administration did not communicate the date or time of the canine sweep to students or their families. The Bristol Warren Regional School District abided by the Bristol Police Department directive, as well as the protocols of the RI State Police Department. In order maintain a substance-free campus; the Bristol Warren Regional School District will be conducting canine sweeps of the Mt. Hope High School campus periodically.
The canine sweep which occurred on Feb. 26 was one step in an action plan that entails therapeutic intervention, student support services, and pro-active positive lifestyle awareness.