February 3, 2012

Contraband searches help New Town Schools

Contraband searches help New Town Schools
By Jerry W. Kram

Rena has a really good job. All she has to do is play.
Rena is Black Lab-Golden Retriever mix employed by Interquest Detection Canines. With her handler Sara Fox, Rena travels to schools, job sites and other areas to sniff out things that shouldn’t be there.
“For Rena this is just a game,” Fox said. “She thinks she is looking for her toy so she is just here to have fun.”
Fox and Rena do monthly visits to the public schools in New Town and Mandaree. The New Town School Board decided to hire Interquest to do searches in the elementary, middle and high schools to cut down on students bringing illicit or dangerous substances onto school property. Rena is trained to smell illegal drugs, flash powder (used in fireworks), gunpowder, alcohol and over the counter medications that could be abused. In prior years the school brought in drug dogs from Washburn or Williston once or twice a year.
When Rena is working, students are told to stay in their classrooms, said Superintendent Marc Bluestone. Fox first puts some decoy targets in random lockers to make sure Rena is doing her job. Fox leads Rena past the lockers and when Rena smells something she sits in front of that locker. Her reward is a few minutes of playing tug of war with a toy that Fox carries.
Once the lockers have been inspected, Bluestone said a couple of classrooms are randomly selected and the students are told to leave the room and leave their coats and backpacks on their desks. Fox then leads Rena around the room to see if she can smell anything there.
“We’re not here to trap the kids,” Fox said. “We want to deter the kids from bringing the bad stuff into the school. For us it’s a good day when we don’t find anything.”

The Weather Network