‘We Do Not Want To Permanently Damage Kids That Make Mistakes’: Board of Ed Balks at Allowing K-9 Police Dogs in Schools

Saying they need more information and time to reflect on what would follow from allowing a police K-9 dog to search for narcotics in New Canaan schools, members of the Board of Education on Monday night decided to forgo voting on a new policy that would introduce the practice. Even if authorization from school administrators was required for K-9 searches of lockers or other areas, allowing them “has the potential to change kids’ lives,” according to Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson. 

“It is an important thing,” she said during the board’s regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We all agree we want drug-free schools. But I think it is also an important thing to say that we have hired experts in their field to deal with kids in crisis. And so we want to do the right thing to keep our schools drug-free, but we also do not want to permanently damage kids that make mistakes.

Board of Ed Moves Toward Allowing K-9 Searches for Drugs in Schools

The Board of Education on Monday took formal steps toward allowing police K-9 dogs to search school property for drugs. 

During the first read of a draft policy during the board’s regular meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said “the idea is that the superintendent would be empowered to authorize a search of the schools, any one of the schools, with police and police dogs.”

“The policy from the Board of Ed really speaks to a belief in the importance of having substance-free schools,” Luizzi said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “I have been in schools that had searches. It can be difficult, complex to put in place, but certainly worthwhile.”

Under the draft policy— based on a template supplied by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education—the Board of Ed would “permit the administration to invite law enforcement agencies or other qualified agencies or individuals to search school property with dogs trained for the purpose of detecting the presence of illegal substances, when necessary to protect the health and safety of students, employees or property and to detect the presence of illegal substances or contraband, including alcohol and/or drugs.”

Luizzi said he has met with Police Chief Leon Krolikowski and that the draft policy had been reviewed by the chief. It’s similar to what’s been adopted by school districts in towns such as Wilton, Greenwich, Monroe, Shelton and Brookfield, Luizzi said. The school board’s action follows strongly worded comments in April from both police officials and residents urging the district to allow the K-9 searches.

Parents Call for Board of Ed To Open ‘Formal and Public’ Study on Later School Start Times

Eight months after hearing that they would be part of a working group dedicated to the task, parents in plain language on Monday night called for the Board of Education to open a “formal and public study” to evaluate later school start times in New Canaan. Saying she represented more than 600 New Canaan Public Schools parents who have signed an online petition advocating for later start times, Megan Steele said the group respectfully requested “that the Board of Ed members put to vote the immediate formation of a ‘School Start Time Committee’ to be formally and publicly created, per the bylaws, so that we the public can have full knowledge of any meetings, process and progress, and additionally provide meaningful input into this outcome.”

“It is a very important decision and we know it is a complicated one,” she told members of the Board of Ed at their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We know we need to understand the costs, the logistics and possible solutions. But we believe we must put our teens’ health first and take a holistic, creative approach to making this work. As parents and registered voters, we are entitled to this from our Board of Ed and school administration.

‘People Are Getting Frustrated’: NCHS Students Organize March 14 ‘Walkout’ in Wake of Florida School Shooting

Dozens of New Canaan High School students are planning to walk out of school for 17 minutes next week, as part of national protest to what organizers describe as inaction in Congress in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Emily Dowdle, a NCHS junior who has helped organize the EMPOWER Youth School Walkout with classmate Emily Shizari, said details still have to be worked out, though the walkout will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, at the flagpole out front of the main entrance. As with other walkouts planned at high schools throughout the United States that day, it will last 17 minutes—one minute for each of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland—and could include a moment of silence, speakers and reading of a poem, Dowdle said. Asked what she felt was happening now that prompted student walkouts, Dowdle noted that the social media hashtag associated with the movement is ‘#ENOUGH.’

“I think people were hopeful that things would change after enough shootings, but I think they feel like they have not,” she said.

District Pursues ‘Alternative High School’ Program, Outback or No Outback

Though it appears the former Outback Teen Center is off the table for now as a future location for an alternative high school program, creating that program remains a priority for the district, officials said last week. New Canaan Public Schools administrators are actively looking at other locations for the program—designed to serve students facing specific health challenges such as anxiety, depression, mood and eating disorders—and a request to fund the equivalent of four positions to operate it remains in the Board of Education’s proposed spending plan for next year, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said. Though the district “would love to have the [Outback] building to establish the program, one is not dependent upon the other, so the alternative high school positions do remain in the budget at this point,” Luizzi said at the Board of Ed’s Feb. 5 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “If it is not located at the Outback, we are looking at other possibilities, so just really exploring and we are looking at a couple of other places in town and other possibilities.