By Tim Leeds
Dogs were in the halls of Havre High School, Havre Alternative School and the Havre Middle School yesterday.
Trained dogs were used in the schools to search for illicit drugs and alcohol and firearms.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kirk Miller said that the dogs stopped at suspicious scents four times at the middle school and five times at the high school. No stops were made at the alternative school.
Miller said no evidence of illicit materials or items was found in any of the middle school stops. They were logged as unidentified or residual odors.
Three of the stops at the high school were logged as unidentified or residual odors, one case was of a prescription medicine in the locker, and one search found an unidentified amount of marijuana.
Miller said the district is taking standard action in the case of the marijuana found.
"We have well-defined procedures to follow if we find an illicit drug, and we followed it," he said.
Yesterday was the second unannounced canine search of the year. The first was held on Nov. 11.
Miller said this is the first year of using canine searches. He said the program was implemented after a year of research and study of programs in other school systems.
"This is just part of what the school district is doing to provide a safe and healthy environment in all our schools," Miller said.
Miller said the procedure in the searches is to walk the dogs through areas of the schools, such as locker areas and restrooms. If the dog recognizes a suspicious odor, it stops and will not continue until the handler notes the spot and orders the dog to continue.
The student is then called to the spot, Miller said, informed of the situation, and asked if any substances that could cause the alert are in the area.
Miller said the students are generally very helpful and cooperative. He said many times the dogs may have stopped because of legal substances. He said the highly refined senses of the animals can recognize cough drops or a prescription medicine which the student had carried in a coat pocket several days before, and will stop because of them.
Miller said although no illicit substances would be better, he is pleased with the successful search.
"If there's a problem going on, we want to find it and let the students, parents and community know it is not tolerated," he said.