- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha school district could get its own drug dog to sniff lockers and patrol hallways during random searches next school year.

Omaha Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Farmer says the district is working with the Omaha Police Department to buy and train a drug-sniffing canine that could appear in middle and high schools this fall.

“We know that the use of drug dogs in schools at districts around the country is a deterrent that can help keep drugs out of the school buildings,” Farmer said.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1X7cLV4 ) reports that the Police Department would buy and train the dog, which would cost $5,000 to $10,000.

The plan, which is still in its early stages, follows a school security survey that asked parents, students, teachers and principals last fall whether they would support additional school security measures, including metal detectors and drug- and gun-sniffing dogs.

The district received nearly 3,000 responses to the survey. Officials said drug dog use got strong backing, especially at the high school level.

“We hope to never find anything,” Superintendent Mark Evans said. “What we hope is that this makes our students more aware that we are focused on keeping our school buildings safe.”

School board president Lou Ann Goding said the board hasn’t talked much yet about moving forward with a narcotics dog. Board members were generally supportive of the idea when the safety survey was sent out several months ago, but some worried about the message the extra security would send.

“There’s a careful balance between creating safe schools and a welcoming environment,” school board member Lacey Merica said at the time. “I don’t want students to feel like they’re going through the TSA.”

There were 263 expulsions and suspensions related to drugs in the 2014 to 2015 school year, a steep drop from the previous school year. Weapons were involved in 178 of those incidents.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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