Pubdate: Mon, 10 Nov 2014
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Los Angeles Times
Author: Sara Cardine
Page: AA3


LA Canada High Asks That the District Resume the Practice, Halted in 2010.

Officials are considering bringing back drug-sniffing dogs to La 
Canada High School, four years after they were removed amid concerns 
over students' rights.

Supt. Wendy Sinnette said school administrators asked that the 
district resume the practice, halted in 2010, to prevent students 
from bringing marijuana and other drugs onto campus.

The issue was discussed last week by board members of the La Canada 
Unified School District.

The district revised its policy on canine searches to bring it more 
into compliance with students' 5th Amendment rights, but Sinnette 
said legal counsel recently suggested the language could be even more specific.

"This policy language meets the legal standards," she told the board. 
"Do we want to be more explicit or not?"

The discussion centered on the merits of canine searches and whether 
students should be given notice of a search.

Board Vice President Andrew Blumenfeld said he sees drug-sniffing 
dogs as a way to disrupt the comfort level students have with 
bringing drugs to school, as opposed to a means of apprehending offenders.

"If there's a feeling that there's too casual a relationship between 
our students and drugs ... having drug-sniffing dogs on campus, 
having them walk through classrooms, will definitely address that at 
its core," he said.

Board President Ellen Multari acknowledged being conflicted about the 
issue but said she was wary of giving students notice of a search.

"I do know, as the parent of a high school student, the usage of 
drugs on campus does seem to be growing," Multari said. "But 
sometimes you can't prevent what you don't apprehend."

Board member David Sagal said he supported giving notice about a 
search to avoid the perception that the district is neglecting 
students' rights. Board member Kaitzer Puglia said she wanted to 
create opportunities for teachers, parents and students to continue 
discussing the issue throughout the school year.

Board member Dan Jeffries questioned the need for canine searches, 
saying the practice seemed over the top unless there was a real drug 
problem at the school. Either way, he added, students should be made 
aware of their rights.

"If you felt the school or the Sheriff 's Department had a particular 
need to do it, it might be one thing, but at this point it seems that 
we want to make sure we protect the rights and privacy of the kids," 
Jeffries said.

In 2010, La Canada Unified became enmeshed in controversy when a 
parent and longtime federal public defender complained that the 
district had sent drug-sniffing dogs onto campus unannounced. 
According to news reports, students were told to leave their 
backpacks and other items in the classroom as they were taken to 
another location. While they were gone, the dogs sniffed their belongings.

Critics said the district's search-and-seizure policy was poorly 
crafted, and board members agreed. In 2011, the policy - and 
administrative regulations dictating how policies should be followed 
- - was clarified.

Sinnette said additional clarification of the policies would further 
protect the district from perceived violations.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom