Nyack Superintendent Dr. James Montesano and the Board of Education discussed bringing the Clarkstown Police K-9 program to Nyack High School next year to sweep the school for any drugs.
The department already goes to Clarkstown North, Clarkstown South and Nanuet High Schools multiple times a year to do sweeps in the common areas of the school, mostly around the lockers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Clarkstown Lt. Jeffrey Wanamaker spoke about the program. He was joined by Officer Kara Donohue, the South resource officer, and Officer Chris Kelly, Nyack High School’s resource officer. The board didn’t vote on whether or not to bring the free program to the high school next year.
Wanamaker said the department has three k-9s and could bring in more from other departments if need be. He said the school principal and that school’s resource officer will pick a day to do the sweep and they would be the only two people who know until it actually happens.
On the day of the sweep, they would wait until a few minutes until after a period starts so the hallways clear out. Then they make their way into the school accompanied by school officials.
“We can do these sweeps within 20 minutes, before the bell goes off for the next change of classes. Our three dogs can probably do Nyack High School, it’s a smaller school, within that 20-minute range,” Wanamaker said. “What we do is we do the common areas, we do the lockers, and that’s at the request of the school. The school wants us to come in, we can come in at their request.”
Wanamaker said if a k-9 gets a scent, it doesn’t always mean there’s a drug in that locker, but it could also mean drugs have come into contract with the locker, or something in it, at some point. He said if the school officials want, they can get a second dog to examine that locker. Once a k-9 gets an indication on a locker, the police department’s part is done, unless the school wants to involve them further.
“We leave it up to the school on how to deal with it,” Wanamaker said. “We are out of it right then and there. We’ll let the school now and how the school wants to handle it, [whether] they want to hand it to the police department or they can keep it in house and deal with it that way.”
Wanamaker added that they don’t get indications every time they do the sweeps either, and he thinks they work to serve as a deterrent in that if students know a sweep is possible, they’ll be less likely to bring any such substances into school.
“It lets the students know it’s not going to be tolerated,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate any narcotics, any drugs in school. We want a safe school environment.”
Donohue said the program can be beneficial to students whose lockers the k-9s pick up a scent on, even if no drugs are found in the locker.
“It opens the door to conversation between myself and that student and perhaps the parents or guardians,” she said. “It’s almost an excuse to talk to them, to talk about the consequences of drug use. I think it’s probably helped quite a few students just because of that. It’s not because we caught them with drugs per se, but it opened that door to conversation.”
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