Highland Park, News

Firearm-detecting K9 unit gets trial run with Township High School District 113

A new top dog has enrolled in summer school with Township High School District 113.

A firearm-detecting K9 team will begin Monday, July 8, at Deerfield High School, as part of a weeklong pilot program that could be added to the district’s security measures moving forward, according to a community message from Brian Ahmer, District 113’s chief operations officer.

Ahmer introduced the program to the District 113 School Board in May, telling the board about the benefits and success history of firearm-detecting dogs before the board OK’d a trial run.

District officials will review the results of the pilot program and decide its future in the district by the early fall, the message says.

“The purpose of the pilot is to assess the feasibility of the K9 detection program in general as well as gather feedback from students and staff about it,” said Karen Warner, D113 chief communications officer in a response email. “If the program is feasible, then District 113 will be looking at how the program might work with the other mitigations already in place. At this point, no changes or decisions have been made about any mitigation already in place.” 

Trained to detect firearms and explosives, the dog works with a handler and signals when it detects a “suspicious odor.” The dog — a black Labrador mix — is also specifically trained to work near students, does not bark and “has a calm demeanor,” the district says. While on duty, the dog will not interact with people other than its handler. When off-duty, the dog may interact with people on a limited basis as deemed appropriate by its handler.

The K9 detection program will be active Monday-Friday, July 8-12, at Deerfield High School. According to the district, approximately 450 students are registered for summer school and Deerfield Park District camp participants are also on campus during the day.

The location of the K9 unit will be fluid and, for security reasons, will not be revealed by the district. The mobility of the unit is one of its potential benefits, Warner said.

“The inherent flexibility of a K9 team provides options, options to station the team in one location for a time and/or options for the team to be moving around campus,” Warner wrote.

The district has published more information about the program on a frequently asked questions webpage.

Ahmer’s security report in May was a regular update coinciding with the district’s increased safety measures.

gun brought to Highland Park High School in April 2023 sparked public outcry and board action to approve security improvements districtwide prior to the 2023-’24 school year. Those improvements included the addition of weapons detectors, card readers at entrances, security film on exterior glass, personnel additions (director of security), improved security cameras and more.

Whether a K9 team will be added will be known soon.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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