Board of Education postpones decision to expand drug sniffing dog - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Board of Education postpones decision to expand drug sniffing dog program

Custer Custer
Shani Morris Shani Morris
Lenn Uyeda Lenn Uyeda
Ann Mahi Ann Mahi

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The state Board of Education postponed it decision on whether or not it will expand its drug sniffing dog program to include all public schools on Tuesday.  They plan to meet on June 18 to make a final decision.

They discussed for three hours on Chapter 19 of the Department of Education's Rules Amending Title 8, which encompasses student misconduct and discipline.

Right now only a handful of schools have implemented it. It's a controversial issue, and if the proposal passes, it will impact about 175,000 students.

Thirteen board members were eligible to vote. Roosevelt High School is one of two Oahu schools that have the program, and students and administrators there made their voices heard.

Meet Custer. He's now a familiar face at several Hawaii public schools, but his visibility could increase dramatically. The Board of Education is considering making the drug sniffing dog program statewide. It's already been approved at Roosevelt High School.

"I think it's necessary because people just don't know boundaries and they bring drugs to school when they shouldn't be and it's a safe place," said Shani Morris, a 17-year-old senior at Roosevelt.

School administrators say it's come at the right time.

"Drug use on campus has just escalating. It's starting to get worse," said Lenn Uyeda, Roosevelt High School's vice principal. "Just in the past couple of weeks, we had to send home a couple of students because of drug use and drug possession."

Drug offenses at Roosevelt went from 11 last year, to 20 so far this year; an increase of 82 percent. Principal Ann Mahi is taking this seriously.

"We have a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) high school program that we're piloting next year, along with the K9 sniff program as well as working with our students so that they can understand the impact of taking drugs and what that will mean to their future," she said.

The dog can only sniff in common areas, so classrooms and even lockers are off limits for now, but that could all change. That's because the Board of Education is considering plans to expand the anti-drug program, saying, "school lockers provided to the students on campus are subject to opening and inspection (and external dog sniffs) by school officials at any time with or without cause."

But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say the searches violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. They say it treats all students like criminals.

Still, some students say they like the program.

"(We) should have the right to be safe," said Morris. "Everyone should have the right to go to their school and be comfortable in their school and drugs don't make people comfortable in their school."

The most common drug offenses involve marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs. School officials say they're not trying to bust anyone; they just want to provide a healthy deterrent.

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