Payson Center for Success students got a firsthand look at how the school's new Drug Free School Enforcement Policy will be administered Wednesday morning.
The charter school's 54 students gathered in the parking lot to watch Kodiak, the Payson Police Department's drug dog, track down marijuana planted on a police vehicle. When officer and handler Les Barr arrived with Kodiak, the dog was already straining at the leash trying to get to the vehicle.
"This dog is a dope-finding fool," Sgt. Rod Mamero told the students. "He's (found) well over $600,000 (worth of) narcotics the past two years."
The new policy, initiated by PCS students last year, prohibits "the nonmedical use, possession, or sale of drugs on school property or at school events" and provides an enforcement vehicle periodic random canvassing by Kodiak of all school buildings and cars in the parking lot "to ensure that there are no illegal substances on the premises."
All PCS students sign a form agreeing to support the school's zero tolerance policy.
"Our school is a public high school, but when they come to our school (the students) know this is already a policy that has been put in place so if they did have a problem with it they would never enroll here," Kerry Wright, PCS administrative assistant, said. "They would stay at the other campus."
Payson Police Lt. Don Engler also addressed the students, thanking them for supporting the new policy.
"I really respect you for your decision to want to make your campus drug-free and to take that initiative," he said. "This was not initiated by school personnel by any means."
While last year's students began work on the policy, it took months to get necessary approvals and set the program up.
"This is a project that we have worked on putting in place for the last year," principal Monica Nitzsche said.
"It took a lot of intricate planning and working with the advisory board of PCS, the district administration and the Payson Police Department."
Before the demonstration, Mamero explained to the assembled students such searches are not a violation of their fourth amendment constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
"What we're talking about here is completely different," Mamero said. "The fourth amendment does not extend to public areas like school yards, like shopping malls places where you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. What that means is that your property is subject to search at any time. That means the police don't need a search warrant, don't need your permission, don't need your consent."
The Payson Center for Success is one of only a few charter schools operated by a school district. It was founded in 1996 for students 16-21 who prefer a non-traditional educational setting.
The school, which currently has a waiting list of six students, was one of the highest rated schools for quality of overall education in the third annual Arizona Charter School Parent Satisfaction Survey earlier this year.