LAWRENCE, Ind. - A central Indiana school district is stepping up security by bringing in a bomb-sniffing dog to roam the halls on a regular basis. Lawrence Township is now the first school district in the country to have two K9s, specializing in weapons and drug detection.
District leaders say the newest dog acts as a quiet warning to anyone even considering bringing a firearm into a school. The district decided to get the dog as a proactive, rather than reactive, measure. One principal says security measures must be frequently updated.
"We are seeing way too many teens today with guns," said Lawrence North principal Brett Crousore. "I want to know my students came into Lawrence North High School without anything on them because they know they have a safe place."
The dog, Niko, was brought in to work at the schools this fall following extensive training in Houston, Texas. He's able to detect things like explosives, firearms and ammunition. His handler, Officer Matthew Brandenburg, says Niko's presence sends a clear message.
"Prevention is the greatest deterrent," Brandenburg said. "If they know the dog is there, they’re not going to bring that stuff around. If they do, it’s going to be found."
Together, Brandenburg and Niko are able to quickly search through classrooms and lockers to make sure there are no threats to students.
The K9 also provides an opportunity for more communication between students and officers. Teens can often be spotted petting Niko in the hallways.
"It’s that positive relationship that we need with our kids and police officers and men of service throughout our communities," Crousore said.
While it's all smiles during those interactions, the seriousness of the job remains the focus.
"As for parents and administrators, it gives extra sense of security because they’re out there to find the worst of the worst," Brandenburg said. "God forbid we come across that - but that’s what we are trained to do."
A highly trained dog like Niko typically costs more than $10,000. The school district was able to get him at no cost thanks to a grant.
Lawrence Township got its first K9 in 2015. Axel specializes in detecting drugs.