Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jun 2007
Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HI)
Copyright: 2007 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Author: Alexandre Da Silva
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Dogs)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The Success of the Pilot Program Has Education Officials Urging Its Expansion

Custer, a 6-year-old golden retriever, has been successfully sniffing 
out drugs and alcohol at two Maui schools since February and 
proponents say the pilot search program should be expanded to schools 

State education officials plan to take up the issue by the end of the 
month. An expansion of the plan could also include allowing the dogs 
to search lockers, backpacks, purses and vehicles on campus.

One Board of Education member said the timing is right, with the 
recent approval of random drug-testing for teachers.

While the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concerns about 
students' privacy rights, principals at the two Maui schools say the 
response has been positive.

A drug-sniffing dog that found marijuana and several liquor bottles 
at two Maui public schools could prompt education officials to expand 
the pilot program and allow for drug searches of students' lockers.

In seven random visits to Lahaina Intermediate School since February, 
Custer, a 6-year-old golden retriever, found two bags with marijuana 
or traces of the drug, a partially smoked joint or marijuana 
cigarette, rolling papers and about 30 liquor bottles, said Principal 
Marsha Nakamura.

Lahainaluna High School Principal Michael Nakano said the unannounced 
dog visits also uncovered alcohol bottles and marijuana on his campus.

Board of Education member Mary Cochran, who spearheaded the 
5-month-old program, said she believes it should be added to all 
secondary schools.

"That's what I want. The timing is right politically, with the random 
drug-testing" of teachers, said Cochran, who represents Maui. "To me, 
it's not just the teachers, it's everybody."

The proposal comes as the state Department of Education is revising 
Chapter 19, the administrative rules on student misconduct, to 
possibly allow dogs to sniff students' lockers.

"How it's written, it prevents us from doing it," said schools Deputy 
Superintendent Clayton Fujie, citing student privacy rights. The 
revisions to the rules will be sent to the Attorney General's Office 
and presented to the school board by month's end, Fujie said.

Searches are OK only in common areas like cafeterias, gymnasiums and 
bushes, with students, lockers, backpacks, purses and vehicles being 

Whitney White, owner of Interquest Detection Canines of Hawaii, which 
is running the pilot program on Maui, said principals want access to lockers.

"The principals that I've been dealing with have really been pushing 
for more latitude in that," she said.

The company, which has search dogs in 1,200 school districts 
nationwide, would be able to cover all 297 Hawaii public schools "as 
quickly as possible" if asked, White said. She said only Hawaii and 
Alaska lack comprehensive dog-search programs in public schools.

Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said the idea behind 
any pilot program is to decide whether it should be continued or dropped.

"It could be expanded, but there's no specific plans that I'm aware 
of right now," he said. "We just need to see if it does hold up 
legally and effectively."

When the department announced it would use dogs to combat drugs, 
alcohol and firearms, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that 
the random searches could violate students' rights. But parent and 
student reaction to the program has been positive, according to the 
Maui principals.

Nakamura said most of the contraband found at her campus, including a 
punctured beer bottle likely used as a device to smoke pot, were near 
a basketball court used by area residents in the evening and 
weekends. She said, however, that one plastic bag containing the drug 
was hidden in a bush fronting a classroom, and that at least six 
students have been caught doing drugs on campus.

School board member Herbert Watanabe said while he backs increasing 
the program's reach, funding would be a concern. He suggested 
starting with all high schools and possibly exempting elementary campuses.

"I can support the whole concept of it, but I don't know what the 
costs would be," he said.

White couldn't estimate costs of an statewide program, saying that 
expenses vary depending on how often it is done. She said the pilot 
project is paid for with grants.

Karen Knudsen, chairwoman of the school board, said student safety 
should take priority over funding if members opt to spread the 
program to all counties.

"I wouldn't let cost stand in the way," she said. "If it's effective, 
if it's deterring drugs on campus, then maybe we need to find the 
money for a program like this." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake