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Bedford High School will be undergoing periodic drug K-9 searches. (Kimberly Houghton)

Bedford School Board gives OK for high school drug searches

BEDFORD — The School Board on Monday approved a proposal to utilize canines for drug searches at Bedford High School.

After receiving public feedback and reviewing similar initiatives implemented at other school districts throughout the state, the board voted unanimously to allow the periodic drug searches.

“This was something that I was recommending, so I am pleased the board supported it,” Superintendent Chip McGee said on Tuesday. “I think this is another piece of the puzzle for handling substance abuse issues.”

Since the Bedford Police Department does not own a K-9 unit, the school district will use dogs from other police agencies in New Hampshire. There will be no cost to local taxpayers since the dogs selected would use the high school searches for training purposes.

McGee believes that K-9 drug searches could be a good deterrent for students considering bringing drugs or alcohol onto school property.

In the last three years at Bedford High School, there have been 16 instances where students have been caught possessing marijuana, pills, alcohol and other substances on the high school campus, according to data shared with school officials; those students received suspensions of five to 10 days.

In addition, there have been 11 incidents within the past three years where students have been suspended five to 10 days for being on school property under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and there have been nine incidents where students were either suspended or expelled for distributing drugs or alcohol at the high school.

Furthermore, there have been eight instances where drug or alcohol paraphernalia has been found at the school in the past three years, which resulted in suspensions of two to 10 days.

McGee did not state whether the random, unannounced drug searches would begin this school year or in the fall.

“We are authorized to begin at any time,” he explained.

There will be no interaction between the dogs and the students during the searches, according to school officials. Although the primary purpose of the drug searches will be deterrence, it will also be to identify illegal substances on the school campus. The visits will be designed to limit disruption to the academic portion of the school day, and an administrator and a police officer would be present during all searches by the dogs.

A survey was recently conducted gathering input from parents, students and staff on the topic of using drug-sniffing dogs. According to Bedford High School Principal Bill Hagen, about 80 percent of parents and faculty and about 70 percent of students said they would support dog searches at the school.

The Merrimack School District explored the idea of bringing K-9 units into its high school earlier this year, but ultimately decided to hold off on the proposal. Still, school officials there said they will revisit the idea after more data can be reviewed.

Some nearby schools, including the Nashua School District and Litchfield School District, already use drug K-9s for school searches.

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