HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html School Suspends Teen On Dog's Say-So
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Mar 2002
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Melanie Brooks


Parents Upset Student Was Sent Home -- Even Though He Didn't Have Marijuana

An Ottawa police dog's interest in a 15-year-old boy's ski jacket during an 
impromptu drug search at an Orleans high school yesterday moved school 
officials to immediately suspend the student -- even though he had no drugs 
on him.

While even the school's principal admitted she could not smell any 
marijuana on Chris Laurin's coat, the dog's word proved final.

After the "drug lockdown" at St. Matthew High School yesterday morning, 
Chris said, he was hauled into the principal's office and subjected to an 
interrogation by police and school staff, who told him police dogs are able 
to smell lingering marijuana residue on clothing up to three months after 
the fact.

The educators and officers then sent the student home, suspended and confused.

Chris's parents are furious that their son is being punished for no reason.

"How come the school is allowed to punish my son because a drug-sniffing 
dog smelled marijuana? He didn't have any drugs on his jacket. He didn't do 
anything wrong. What if he had left his coat in someone's car, and that 
person had a joint?" asked Michel Laurin, Chris's father.

Just after 9 a.m., Chris's Grade 10 teacher told the class the school was 
in a lockdown, a situation where police officers, at the request of the 
school, would search the premises for weapons or drugs. Chris didn't think 
anything of it; he sat through two or three lockdowns last year.

A few minutes later, the principal knocked on the door. There was a police 
officer and a German shepherd police dog standing behind him, and the 
students were told to leave the classroom and line up against the lockers 
in the hallway. The police officer and the dog went in, and shortly after, 
they came out holding Chris's grey ski jacket.

Chris was taken to the principal's office, where he was told to empty the 
pockets of his coat. Then the principal searched the jacket. They found $3 
- -- and no drugs.

They asked Chris why his coat smelled like marijuana, and who he hung out 
with who smoked marijuana. They asked him if he had anything illegal in his 
locker, and he said no. They searched his lunch bag, his school bag, and 
took everything out of the locker. Still, no drugs.

They walked him back to the office, and told him to go home: He was suspended.

"I don't get it. Why am I being suspended? I can't smell it, no one else 
can, but the dog somehow picked up a trace of it," Chris said last night. 
"It's not like I went there reeking of pot. Did I have drugs on me? No. I 
didn't even have anything associated with drugs on me.

"It's not that I'm angry at the school, but I didn't break any rules, so I 
don't think I should be suspended."

"They just said it's school policy," said Mr. Laurin, who left work to talk 
to the principal yesterday afternoon. "I know they're trying to do the 
right thing, but suspension for a coat? I don't believe the implications 
this could have."

Late last night, the vice-principal called to say Chris would be suspended 
for two days and he has to see a drug counsellor when he returns to school.

James McCracken, deputy director of education for the Ottawa-Carleton 
Catholic School Board, said the lockdowns are part of the Safe Schools policy.

"This is a preventative measure," he said. "We're very interested in not 
having illegal substances at schools. If they find something suspicious, 
the police have the authority to search bags, jackets etc."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Alex