TRUMANSBURG, N.Y. — Five police K9s from three counties were at Trumansburg high school and middle school Wednesday morning to train and look for drugs in lockers.

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High school Principal Jon Koeng said police train K9s at the school nearly every year.  It’s a multifaceted effort to collaborate with police and let students know that drug offenses will be taken seriously.

“It sends the message to kids that we’re alert and aware and we’re looking,” Koeng said.

He said the sheriff’s office from surrounding counties worked with the schools to find a time to go there with the dogs. Then, a “hold in place” is put into effect, meaning students are not permitted to leave classrooms and hallways are cleared of people.

The dogs are then walked near lockers to see if any drugs are inside. If a dog detects that drugs may be present, a mark is placed on the locker and school officials can investigate further.

On Wednesday, dogs did not find any drugs at the schools, where about 650 students attend.

“For better or worse, they didn’t hit on any drugs in our school, which makes me very happy,” Koeng said.

He said he has received several emails from parents commending the proactive approach to preventing drug use.

In February, four teens were charged with selling or possessing drugs at Trumansburg high school.

“I have gotten universally positive feedback except from one email from one parent this morning,” Koeng said.

He said the one parent was concerned about whether the police presence sends an effective message to students about drug use, which he said is a fair question.

He said, “It is something to think about. Is this the right way to get the message out?”

In addition to the almost-annual visit from police K9s on campus, Koeng said the schools have presentations students attend about drug and alcohol use, and officials send information to parents about drug use prevention.

For instance, in April, high school students will attend a comedy themed presentation about sobriety and natural highs. And the school sent information to parents about how to dispose of prescription drugs when they are no longer needed because students, such as the ones recently charged selling drugs at the high school, can get the pills from family members.

“There’s lots of good reasons to stay clean and sober, so trying to find that balance,” he said.

The following letter was sent to parents and guardians Wednesday morning:

Dear Parents/Guardians,

I am just writing to notify you that this morning, as part of our ongoing efforts to address concerns about drugs in our schools, we partnered with [sheriff departments from surrounding counties] to bring the drug dogs into our schools. As part of the activity, K-9 units from the three surrounding counties came and visited our high school and middle school buildings.  The activity today served as a training exercise for the dogs and also helped to raise awareness among our students.

I am pleased to report that no drugs were found in our schools during this exercise.

On behalf of the school staff and administrative team, I want to thank you all for your continued support of our efforts to keep our schools safe and drug free.

Jon Koeng
Charles O. Dickerson High School

Update at 5:10 p.m. — This story has been updated to reflect information from the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office stating that deputies from the county did not participate in the training.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.