Canines find drugs at Camden Hills
Rockport — Drugs were located inside a car in the Camden Hills Regional High School parking lot Dec. 13, Principal Nicholas Ithomitis said.
“It's a hard decision because we work really hard here to build a relationship of trust with students,” he said of conducting canine drug searches on school property.
"Your hope would be zero [drugs found at school]," Superintendent Elaine Nutter said. "It's disappointing not to be zero but statistically, not a bad result."
Ithomitis said drug problems at the school several years ago led to increased searches, though dogs only appeared at the school last year. He said school administrators know the school “will never be 100 percent drug free” but hope to curb potential issues by implementing drug searches.
“We only found contraband one time — this time — in the parking lot,” Ithomitis said.
He did not identify the type of drugs found.
According to a letter sent to parents Dec. 13, he said two canine searches took place last year at the school. During a phone interview Dec. 14, Ithomitis said two dogs were involved in the search while students practiced a “stay in place” drill. As one dog checked the parking lot, the other searched some lockers and randomly-chosen classrooms. Students in the randomly-chosen classrooms left behind belongings and waited in another room. The letter states no students or teachers were in classrooms while the searches took place and no students were searched.
“The dogs searched the rooms in general and specifically each backpack, laptop case and purse,” the letter states.
The stay in place drill was created in case of a situation at nearby Camden-Rockport Elementary School or in town that requires students to be accounted for, Ithomitis said.
“We just wanted to have a situation where kids weren't in lockdown,” he said, adding the stay in place drill is for “lesser emergency situations.”
This week's drill had been planned for weeks, Ithomitis said, adding "there was no outside influence" for the drill. It was decided to have canines search the school during the stay in place drill to address “two birds with one stone,” he said. The school is required to have six drills per year for emergencies, Ithomitis said.
“Nobody is going to say we want drugs in our school,” he said, adding feedback from parents mostly consists of thank yous. “Nobody has said we shouldn't be doing [drug searches].”
Although Ithomities did say some parents have expressed concern about students' civil rights.
Ithomitis said an automated message is phoned to parents alerting them to drills such as lockdown and stay in place. Calls to parents began just after 10 a.m. when the drill was scheduled to start.
“I prepared a recording to alert parents it was drill and not to panic,” Ithomitis said, noting he also sent a follow-up letter to parents. “It was a perfect stay in place [drill] for us.”
Rockport police helped coordinate the search, Ithomitis said, adding a lockdown drill will likely take place at some point during the school year as well. Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies provided the dogs for the search, Rockport Police Patrol Officer Craig Cooley said. Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett said Deputy Brent Barter and K-9 Olga as well as Deputy Scott Hayden and K-9 Koda participated in the search.
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