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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    Official criticizes drug sweep at Stonington High

    Stonington - Board of Education member Craig Esposito has criticized the use of police dogs to search the high school for illegal drugs in December, saying it sent a "bad message" to students.

    "It's like you're the warden and the school is a prison," he told Principal Mark Friese during Thursday night's Board of Education meeting.

    "You as an adult would not want to be treated that way. To me, it's overkill," he said.

    His comments came after Friese offered an overview of the Dec. 12 sweep, in which eight police dogs from area departments searched school hallways, locker rooms and parking lots for illegal drugs while students remained in their classrooms. Two students were cited for possession of marijuana.

    Esposito said the fact that the sweep netted just two violations shows there is not a problem, but an overreaction.

    But Friese said during his time at the school he has found illegal drugs on a number of occasions.

    "I know it's around and I know it's increasing," he said.

    "I feel a strong message is needed to make sure it's not here."

    Friese said students were told at the beginning of the school year that the dogs would come to the school. He said he plans to have the dogs conduct sweeps twice each school year and more if he feels the problem is increasing.

    Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco reminded Esposito that the school board had approved the policy that allowed the K-9 teams in school.

    "I feel it's important to let parents know that we're not going to allow drugs here," added Superintendent of Schools Van Riley. "In my experience, if you don't do things like this, you will have more" problems.

    Charlie Buxton, a senior who is the board's student representative, told the board his fellow classmates did not have an issue with the dogs. He said they had been warned the dogs would be coming in during the school year.

    "It sends a clear message to students that you're here for learning," he said.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

    Twitter: @joewojtas

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