Smoking pot is popular at Porter Creek Secondary, even more so than drinking alcohol, and that’s why the school needs a drug-sniffing dog, said principal Kerry Huff.
“Our school issue is cannabis for sure,” Huff said this week.
Last year, he had his students complete an anonymous survey about their drug and alcohol use.
He was surprised to learn that out of the 450 kids that completed the survey, 17 per cent of them said they had smoked marijuana while at school.
Five per cent said they drank alcohol at school.
“Cannabis is easier to conceal and that’s probably why more students use it at school,” said Huff.
But come September, this may no longer be true.
Porter Creek Secondary will be home to Ebony, a three-year-old black Lab, who will be able to sniff out marijuana and other illegal substances that might be concealed in students’ backpacks and lockers.
Ebony will come with her trainer, Doug Green, a retired RCMP officer from Edmonton, who will be running a drug awareness program at the school.
Although Huff will now have the ability to search kids for drugs, he and Green will never do random sweeps of the school looking for illegal substances, said Huff.
“Random search would be a search that was done with no probable cause,” said Huff.
“Before we would search a student’s pack or locker we would have to have just reason for doing so and that would be a credible source identifying that drugs were in the school and that particular student had them.
“It could come from a student or a parent or somebody like that, not from the dog.
“The dog is just another tool I have once I learn that a student has drugs in their bag or locker,” he said.
“I already have students coming to me and telling me they saw drugs go into a certain bank of lockers; this way we can use the dog to find out where the drugs have been stashed,” said Huff.
Ebony will only sniff for drugs when she’s told to.
For the rest of the time she will mingle among the students as if she were a pet.
While not following leads, Huff will use Green as another tool to prevent further drug use at the school.
Green will be giving a presentation at a school assembly in September where he will show what his drug dog can do.
Green has been issued a “drug kit” from Health Canada, filled with illegal substances and all he has to do is place cotton balls next to the substances and then hide the cotton balls and Ebony will be able to pick up on the scent.
Meanwhile, in the coming months, small amounts of drugs found on students will not be reported to the RCMP; rather, Huff will dispose of the drugs himself with witnesses watching him do it.
“I would bring in the RCMP if the quantity was significant enough,” said Huff.
If a student is found with drugs in the school, it will be recommended, but not mandatory, that the student visit the school’s drug and alcohol counsellor.
“The reason being is that if you aren’t willing to be counseled you’re not going to be counseled,” said Huff.
According to the drug survey that Huff had his students complete, six per cent say they have used speed or methamphetamine; 13 per cent say they have used ecstasy; 18 per cent reported using mushrooms; 6.7 per cent reporter having used cocaine and 2.8 per cent said they had used heroin.
“My gut feeling is that the numbers we collected for cannabis and alcohol use are close to the truth but that the other numbers may be exaggerated bravado,” said Huff.