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Canine Search; a Story of Highly Effective Teamwork

by Dr. Ellin Booras, principal – Sandwich High School

Today, on October 30, 2014,  School Resource Officer Christa Cabral of the Sandwich Police Department, facilitated a schoolwide canine search at SHS/STEM Academy. Today’s drill was done  in partnership with a team of drug enforcement officers and their canine units gathered from throughout the Cape.  Approximately 7 years ago, the Sandwich School Committee approved a policy in support of unannounced canine searches as part of its commitment to the community wide Substance Abuse Task Force.  When asked his thoughts on today’s search, Dr. Richard Canfield, Superintendent of Schools, commented,” Whether they attend a public, private or charter school, students deserve our best work to assure that schools are a safe oasis. Schools should be free of the challenges and temptations associated with at-risk behaviors. Our approach in Sandwich is borne out of our respect for the students’ rights to attend school free of the distractions and behaviors often linked with substance abuse. Our partnership with the police and fire department personnel  is central to  our ability as educators to fulfill our pledge to our students in maintaining a healthy learning environment.”

On site today at Sandwich High School/ STEM Academy were Police Chief Peter Wack and Deputy Fire Chief John J. Burke. They worked side by side with school administration to support the work of the canine teams. Key to the protocol is the fact that such searches are never pre-announced.  We wish to assure parents and students that no person is searched. The search is random and it is confined to belongings such as backpacks, lockers, and vehicles. When the canine unit is assembling outside, Officer Cabral signals the principal to hold all passing, and to ask that all students and staff remain in their respective  classrooms for the duration of the search. The canine units are assigned to various sectors of the building. Each unit is accompanied by a school administrator. Chief Wack and Officer Cabral signal the principal when each sector is complete. The entire  process takes less than 30 minutes. There is little to no disruption to teaching and learning as classes continue during the process.

Beyond the excellent news of an incident free sweep, what was particularly impressive was the extra care  given to our STEM students by Officer Cabral and our STEM school counselor, Lauren Wentworth.  For students in grades 7,8, and 9, this was their first encounter with this procedure. At the conclusion of the search, after Chief Wack had given permission to resume the day’s activities, Officer Cabral and Ms. Wentworth met with two classes of STEM students whose classes had been searched, and spent time describing the process and answering questions. These students were introduced to the canine team, and came away with an understanding of why the process enhances their safety at school.

Sandwich High School/ STEM Academy takes pride in a multi-faceted program relative to students’ chemical health. Students take required health classes in grades 7, 8 and 9.  Each grade level engages in an age appropriate curriculum  which includes units of study on drugs including  alcohol, dependancy and pathways to addiction.

At SHS/STEM Academy, we have a full time social worker who is a trained substance abuse counselor. In addition, we have a full time behaviorist who is trained to help students make positive changes in their lives. In addition, we have a Human Relations class for upperclassmen where the curriculum is focused on relevant and timely education for students preparing for the challenges of  post secondary life. We have implemented  announced universal breathalyzers at our dances and selected events. In addition, we have clear guidelines for athletes and participants in extracurricular events.

The common denominator in all of our protocols is our respect  for our students. The emphasis is on being proactive and taking whatever steps are needed to provide a drug and alcohol free environment conducive to providing maximum academic, social, athletic and artistic opportunities for the wonderful young people who bring Blue Knight Pride alive in our hallways and classrooms.

We thank the Sandwich Police Department  and commend Officer Christa Cabral for her vigilance and her dedication to organizing events focused on student safety and well being.

Christa Cabral

Officer Christa Cabral is an important member of the Sandwich High School/STEM Academy school community.





Learn more about  School Resource Officer Christa Cabral here.


The Sandwich Police Department also has a facebook page; the photo of Officer O’Brien and the Sandwich Police K9 dog Coda is from their page.

Sandwich Learns Together posted a short piece about the Canine Search within hours of its execution, and the Cape Cod Times posted that there were no drugs found at SHS.