By Raymond Lo
For several years now, police dogs have been used to search Gabrielino students’ backpacks and belongings. Because of the process – during which students must leave all belongings inside their classroom while they stand in the corridor as the canine unit searches the room – some students feel that their privacy is being violated and that the school does not trust them. Although these concerns are understandable, it is important that students can be searched by in this manner to prevent drug use on campus.
Canine units are widely used across the United States. In schools, they search the front entrance as well as various classrooms and public areas to ensure that campuses are drug-free.
According to the Huffington Post, 17 percent of high school students use contraband materials. While this may not be a high number, it is high enough to suggest that drugs do make their way onto school campuses and should be a legitimate concern for the administration.
Some students argue that the Fourth Amendment prevents citizens from being subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. However, that does not mean that it is illegal for students to be searched while on campus. Schools are permitted by the government to implement searches as a precaution against illegal substance abuse by adolescents. According to Cornell University, in the case of New Jersey vs. T.L.O, the New Jersey Supreme Court proved that schools have an obligation to ensure a drug-free environment for all students. In the case, the vice principal of Piscataway High School was informed that a student, referred to as T.L.O., was smoking on campus. He then demanded a canine search of the student to be conducted and it revealed that various contraband materials were in the student’s possession.
Thus, the right of privacy is well-balanced with schools’ responsibility to secure the safety and health of their students. Because cigarettes and drugs are strictly prohibited on public school campuses, administrators therefore have the right to use canine units to determine whether or not students are bringing these items onto school property.
Furthermore, students with nothing to hide should be accepting of the process, especially given the school’s main intention of protecting them.
Senior Annie Ung stated, “If you don’t bring anything shady, you have nothing to worry about.”
Moreover, the rate of suspensions of students resulting from these searches is low.
“Most of our hits are residual odor,” added Principal Sharon Heinrich. “We do not have a lot of suspensions from drug use.”
Canine searches send the message that it is not appropriate to have drugs on cam-
pus, and deter potential violators from bringing drugs to school. Although some students may feel that their right to privacy is not being respected, they should understand that, overall, they are being greatly respected by administrative efforts to keep them safe and drug-free.