What has four legs and a nose that can smell trouble?
The newest addition to Oxford Community Schools’ security team.
Last week, the board of education voted 6-0 to approve a $25,200 dog handler agreement with Oxford Township that begins Aug. 1 and expires on July 31, 2020. Trustee Mary Hanser was absent.
Under it, the district will pay the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, via the township, $70 per hour for 360 hours of service from its K-9 Unit.
Trained sheriff’s dogs will be routinely used to search school buildings and grounds for weapons, narcotics and other contraband items that pose a threat to students. School officials hope the regular presence of these highly-trained animals will discourage students from attempting to circumvent school rules and the law by sneaking in dangerous and illegal objects and substances.
Superintendent Tim Throne said the district will be able to request “multiple types of dogs,” depending on the need.
The sheriff’s K-9 Unit consists of 12 dogs and 10 handlers. Each of the dogs is trained to detect one of three things: explosives (black powder, plastic explosives, TNT, etc.), narcotics (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines) and accelerants (substances commonly used in arson).
All of the dogs are trained to do other things, such as track suspects or missing persons, search for discarded evidence and search for suspects who are hiding in buildings and outdoor areas.
Throne noted the $25,200 figure was inserted in the mini-contract for “budgeting purposes.”
“In no way do we have to spend that amount if we don’t want to,” he said.
The superintendent considers this to be an experiment of sorts to determine what’s needed. Over the next year, he said the district may find “we want twice as much service” or it could learn “this isn’t what we thought it was and not use as many hours as we’ve contracted for.”
The district will not be required to pay for any unused hours.
Although Throne believes the sheriff’s dogs will be “primarily” used at the high school, he “absolutely” wants them to visit the other buildings as well, including the middle school and five elementary schools.
Flexibility is the key feature of this mini-contract, according to Throne. District officials will be the ones to determine when and where these dogs are deployed.
“We can create a schedule,” he told the board. “We can ask for specific dogs. We can ask for (them to be used at) specific buildings.”
“It gives us enough latitude to where we can just apply the hours however we think best,” Throne noted.
Trustee Erick Foster asked the superintendent if he’s aware of any other school districts doing this.
“I’m sure there are,” Throne replied. “I don’t know of any others in Oakland County at this point.”
Foster said he likes “to learn from other people’s mistakes” and if there are other districts with programs like this, he suggested connecting with them to find out what they’ve learned, particularly when it comes to their “failures,” so Oxford doesn’t “repeat” them.