The Great Dog Debate

KHS went on lockdown for a school-wide drug dog search Friday, Oct. 31. Principal Dr. Michael Havener directed students to put all backpacks, coats and other personal belongings in the hallway during their third hour class. Three specially trained dogs were brought to KHS to search for illegal substances in students’ backpacks, lockers and cars parked on-campus. The Kirkwood Call staff voted 45:22 in support of the administration conducting drug dog searches.

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The Great Dog Debate

The great dog debate

The great dog debate

Anna Schaeffer

The great dog debate

Anna Schaeffer

Anna Schaeffer

The great dog debate

New Jersey v. T.L.O. is a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1985 that addressed the constitutionality of searching a public high school student after she was caught smoking marijuana. Upon searching the student, drug paraphernalia, marijuana and documentation of drug sales were found. The student was charged as a juvenile but claimed the search violated her Fourth Amendment rights protecting her from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The U.S. Supreme Court decided by a ruling of 6-3 that the search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Since its ruling, this case has allowed school administrations across the country to act “in loco parentis” (Latin for “in the place of a parent”), authorizing them to take action in the best interest of the students. Since a drug dog’s nose counts as probable cause, Dingo’s searches are legal.

The first KHS drug dog search of the 2014-15 school year took place on Halloween at 10:01 a.m. during third hour. Students were directed to place their belongings in a line down the center of the hallway. While being recorded on an iPad, the three dogs smelled the bags and scratched or bit the item to alert the handler if substances were inside.

Due to the student confidentiality, details of any findings cannot be released. The following description details a typical drug dog search.

The dogs smelled for illegal substances, including but not limited to, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and any of their derivatives. If there was a “hit,” dogs alerted there were drugs inside and the bag was then investigated by an administrator opened it to look for the substances. If found, the drugs were confiscated and the student was pulled from class and suspended.  A first-time offender was administered a 10-day out of school suspension and given a counseling session. Because of police involvement, the student also faced possible arrest, charges and jail time.

If drugs were not found upon search, the student was still pulled from class and parents were notified. Officers refer to this as a “false hit,” meaning there had been drugs in the bag, locker or car at one time.

The drug dog search the Kirkwood Police Department conducted was free of charge for the administration.

“The majority of students at KHS are doing the right thing,” Havener said. “Unfortunately, there are a handful of students making poor choices. That is one of the reasons for the searches.”

Considering drug searches are constitutional, it is not a question of legality, but rather justifiability. Should the administration exercise the right just because the resource is available?

The Call believes so. One of the main purposes of the searches is to deter students from bringing illegal substances to school. The administration can’t tell you what to do on the weekends, but when illegal substances are brought on school property, the school day is disrupted and more students are affected.

If a student is under the influence of drugs at school, class time is lost due to teacher precautions and student chatter. Besides being illegal, selling or distributing on campus proposes danger to other students. Student and faculty safety is a first priority.

“There was a public outcry to bring canines in because there is a problem in the teenage population,” Chad Walton, school resource officer, said. “The dogs are there for deterrent as much as they are detection.”

According to Michael Wade, associate principal, many other high schools in the area have been conducting searches for years and KHS is one of the last to start. This was the second search at KHS, the first being Feb. 13, 2014 last school year.

The drug searches allow the administration to promote students making healthy decisions as well as avoiding the possibility for students to cause themselves serious injury. For the safety and security of all students and teachers at KHS, The Kirkwood Call staff supports the drug dog searches.

* If you or a friend has an issue with drugs or alcohol please seek help. Officer Walton encourages you to see a school counselor or speak with parents to receive the help needed.