Pubdate: Wed, 27 May 2009
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2009 The Honolulu Advertiser
Author: Loren Moreno
Bookmark: (Drug Dogs)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


The state Board of Education last night postponed a decision on 
controversial amendments to the public school system's disciplinary 
rules -- including changes that would allow for student locker 
searches and drug-sniffing dogs.

After nearly three hours of discussion and public testimony, BOE 
Chairman Garrett Toguchi said the board would table its discussion of 
Chapter 19 until the board's June 18 meeting.

Several Neighbor Island members planned to leave the meeting prior to 
a decision being reached, which would have prevented the board from 
maintaining quorum, he said.

For nearly two years, board members have been grappling over sweeping 
changes to the state administrative rule governing student conduct 
and discipline. A major portion of the disagreements have focused on 
provisions that would allow for searches of student lockers and the 
presence of drug-sniffing dogs on public school campuses solely at 
the discretion of principals and school administrators.

At yesterday's meeting, several attorneys and other community members 
warned against the changes, calling them everything from bad policy 
to unconstitutional.

Pamela Lichty, the president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said 
the revisions are "zero tolerance" in nature, which she believes are 
ineffective in school environments. She also testified against 
suspicionless searches and drug-sniffing dogs, saying it "invokes 
images of a prison or a totalitarian regime."

"It may be legal -- it's controversial whether it is legal -- but the 
question is, is it good policy?" Lichty said.

Speaking on behalf of University of Hawai'i law professor Jon Van 
Dyke, Sinclair Ferguson told board members that the changes are 
"broad and sweeping" in nature and would allow any school official to 
inspect the content of a child's locker at any time, without reason.

"Proposed changes ... relating to locker searches are inconsistent 
with Hawai'i and federal law, which require particularized suspicion 
before conducting any type of search," he said. Opposition voiced

Board members spent a significant portion of yesterday's meeting 
discussing various amendments proposed by board member Kim Coco 
Iwamoto, an outspoken opponent of drug-sniffing dogs and 
suspicionless searches.

Iwamoto succeeded in removing language from the Chapter 19 
recommendation that would have defined contraband to include cell 
phones, food, candy, gum and even rubber bands.

However, Iwamoto had also proposed striking language that would ban 
"consensual touching of body parts," saying the definition was overly 
broad and could lead to students being disciplined for holding hands 
or kissing.

In the end, the amendment failed, but at least one testifier claimed 
that principals have discriminated against lesbians and gay couples 
by disciplining them for public displays of affection.

Caroline Leyva, a social worker with Qelement, an organization that 
helps lesbian and gay youth, told board members an openly lesbian 
student was disciplined by an administrator for holding hands with 
her girlfriend. The girl, who was attending Waipahu Intermediate at 
the time, was told her displays of affection were out of the ordinary 
and inappropriate.

Despite warnings from the American Civil Liberties Union and experts 
of constitutional law, board members voted 11-1 in November 2007 to 
send the proposed changes out for public hearing.

Following extensive and lengthy consultation with the state attorney 
general's office, the board finally held public hearings on the 
Chapter 19 revisions in April and had scheduled a vote for yesterday.

Once the board makes a final decision, the new policy must be signed 
by Gov. Linda Lingle before it will take effect.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom