School districts across the country face constant daily pressure to make sure their students and staff are safe and out of harm’s way.
Donna ISD is no different. The district works hard every day to maintain a zero tolerance policy, especially when it comes to illegal drugs in schools. To help with that effort, DISD added another highly trained officer to its police department. His name is Ivan, a four-legged Belgian Malinois. The canine was purchased as a preventive measure intended to ensure DISD schools are drug-free.
“As a parent, you don’t want drugs offered to your children or drugs to be accessible to them,” DISD Police Chief Daniel Walden said. “This is an issue in schools nationwide, but we believe prevention is the key to a safe and healthy environment. That’s why we brought in Ivan. He will be actively assisting to help prevent any problems that may occur related to drugs. We believe his mere presence will help keep drugs out of our schools.”
Ivan will complement Indio, the district’s other drug-sniffing dog, to conduct searches in schools throughout the district including classrooms, student backpacks, hallways and campus parking lots. “Police K-9s have an extraordinary ability to smell. They’re trained and alert to most major drugs. Let’s say the dog is alerted to a backpack that belongs to a student. That backpack will be searched. If anything is found, we will take the appropriate action.”
Ivan has been partnered with DISD Officer Robert Rodriguez, who has been assigned as his dog handler. Rodriguez said that he and Ivan quickly bonded. “Fortunately, I had been assigned a therapy dog for the last four years so as far as obedience training, I’ve been through that,” Rodriguez said. “That part of the training has worked out really well. The dog is taking to me really good. He understands the commands that I’m giving him.”
Rodriguez said the drug detection part of the training is new to him, but with time, he will learn when the dog is alerting to drugs. “The dog is fully trained and knows his job. He’s actually the worker. I need to learn how to read him when he’s doing his job. Sometimes, it looks like he’s found something and I want to reward him right away. But, if he doesn’t do a certain movement, then he’s still searching. That’s what I’m still learning.”
Rodriguez said drug dogs have been proven to be a valuable tool for law enforcement. “It’s amazing how intelligent the dogs are and how hard they want to work. We ran about 40 searches as part of our training and both of us were exhausted. But, he still wanted to work. I have to tell him that it’s time to take a break and drink water. These dogs are so driven to do their job. It’s really amazing to watch them.”
DISD police believe these searches will complement the district’s other drug prevention programs.
“In almost every request we get for presentations, we get asked about sending a K-9,” Walden said. “Everybody wants to see the dog. So, Ivan will be used quite a bit for educational purposes.”