Canine Teams

  • In response to the increase in suspected overdoses in our schools and community, LCPS and its law enforcement partners -- Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Leesburg Police Department -- have identified multiple intervention and prevention strategies to protect students from the danger posed by fentanyl and other opioids. LCPS will be partnering with LCSO and LPD to conduct random canine team scans in high school buildings. Canine team scans will serve as an additional drug deterrence strategy in our collective effort to stop drug use across the Loudoun County community. Students may see canine teams visiting high schools across the division. We have worked with our law enforcement partners to minimize any disruption to the learning environment that may be caused by these scans.

    Canine Teams Frequently Asked Questions: 

    Why are canine units being brought into LCPS high schools for drug deterrence? What prompted this decision?
    Given the increase in vaping and suspected drug overdoses, LCPS is seeking to enhance student safety by taking every precaution to prevent use and increase awareness about the dangers of opioids, vaping, and other substances. It is the hope that the presence of canine teams will help deter the presence and/or use of such substances on school property.  

    How often will these scans occur, and will parents/guardians/students be notified in advance?
    Canine team scans will occur randomly during school hours and without advance notice at all high schools. The school will follow up with parents/guardians in a community message after a scan takes place.

    What schools will experience canine team visits?
    Canine team scans will take place across LCPS high schools beginning in March 2024. Canine teams, consisting of a dog, their handler, the School Resource Officer, and an administrator, will walk through schools. Each scan will take approximately an hour and a half, about the amount of time of one class block.

    What specific training do the canines and their handlers have to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the scans?
    Police canines that will be used to scan LCPS high schools undergo rigorous training covering obedience, scent detection, agility, and socialization. This prepares them to effectively assist law enforcement in various situations, emphasizing safety, reliability and teamwork between the dog and the handler. The canines that will be used in the LCPS high schools for this initiative are specially trained for detection only; they are not used for apprehension. 

    The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Canine Teams are certified by the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and the Leesburg Police Department Canine Teams are members of the Virginia Police Canine Association (VPCA). All LCSO and LPD Canine Teams undergo annual certifications proving their proficiency in the areas in which the team functions within their respective agency.   

    Does the current MOU with LCPS and LCSO allow for the use of canine teams in schools?
    Yes, the Memorandum of Understanding between LCPS, LCSO and LPD, signed in August 2023, addresses canine teams on page 7 and states that School Board Policy 8265 guides these scans. 

    What procedures will be in place to minimize disruption to students and ensure their safety during the scans?
    Every attempt will be made to minimize disruption to instructional time. School buildings will be placed into a “hold” status, which is used when students and staff should remain in classrooms during a situation. Just as anywhere canine teams are used, such as airports, students and staff will be instructed not to interact with the dog or its handler while they perform their duties.

    What if testing or other regular activities are planned during a scan?
    Every attempt will be made to minimize disruption to instructional time. School buildings will be placed into a “hold” status, which is used when students and staff should remain in classrooms during a situation. Instruction or other regular activities inside classrooms can continue without interruption.

    What areas of the buildings will be scanned by the canine teams?
    In order to deter the presence of drugs on campus, specifics will not be released about areas to be scanned. However, students or staff may see canine teams in hallways, near lockers, or in classrooms where students are not present.

    What happens if a dog indicates the presence of drugs in a student's belongings? What are the protocols for handling such situations?
    Policy 8265, Student Searches and Seizure, provides that canine teams may be used to aid in the search for contraband on school property such as in school lockers; however, canines may not be used to search students. In the event that a canine alerts, for example, on a particular student locker, this would provide reasonable suspicion to conduct a search of the locker in accordance with Policy and Regulation 8265, Student Searches and Seizure.  

    Students are reminded that per Policy 8240, alcohol, illicit and unauthorized drugs, tobacco, and electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”) are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated. This information is communicated in the Students Rights & Responsibilities handbook all students and families acknowledge at the beginning of each year.

    Will the presence of canine teams create a stigma around certain students or groups within the school?
    The use of these canine teams across high schools will not target any single geographic area or school population. These teams will visit all LCPS high schools to perform scans of the buildings. 

    Will these canine scans continue into the following school year? 
    Feedback on the spring 2024 canine scans as deterrents will be analyzed. If these canine scans are useful as deterrents to the presence of drugs on campus, we anticipate continuing them in the 2024-2025 school year. 

    How will the results of these scans be communicated to parents and the wider school community?
    After a canine team scans a school, no matter what the outcome, the school community will receive a message from the principal or their designee. No results of any scan will be reported, as anything discovered in such a scan could become part of a law enforcement investigation

Last Modified on February 26, 2024