Palm Beach County School District K-9 unit growing

Posted at 4:00 PM, Sep 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-30 22:08:26-04

Making sure your child is safe at school is top of mind for school districts, parents and teachers. 

The Palm Beach County School District has a "not-so-secret weapon" to combat drugs, weapons and threats in classrooms: The school police K-9 unit. 

There are eight members and the program is growing thanks to support from the community and the students it serves.

“Once we started to see an elevation and ramp up in the number of bomb threats that we were getting into the schools we wanted to address that and add some explosives dogs as well,” said Palm Beach County School District Police Officer Chris Ferland.

But the dogs aren't cheap. They cost $8 to $10 thousand each.

And there's no budget for them.  The money to buy and take care of them comes entirely thorough donations.

The K-9 club at Boca High, led by principal Dr. Susie King, is just one of the local student groups raising money to help the unit grow.

“They watch us and they make sure we're safe they can sniff out if someone's dangerous and have any threats… and without them there that level of protection is gone,” said Boca Raton High School K-9 Club President Emily Sanchez.

Besides providing protection and security police say the K-9s help them build relationships at a time when tensions between officers and civilians is at an all-time high.

“With what's going on today with law enforcement and the community we want to make sure that when we're working with the children we can bridge that gap between law enforcement and open up a line of   Ferland said.

“As soon as you bring those dogs into the mix all of a sudden all of those students are there… they're talking to the officer they're petting the dogs… you know they're having that communication,” said Boca Raton High School Principal Dr. Susie King.

Palm Beach County School District police want to keep growing the K-9 unit.

With 180 schools and nearly 200,000 students, eight dogs is just a drop in the bucket.

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