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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Drug Dogs To Keep Pleasanton High School Students On
Title:US CA: Drug Dogs To Keep Pleasanton High School Students On
Published On:2012-02-03
Source:Pleasanton Weekly (CA)
Fetched On:2012-02-04 06:01:32

School Board to Vote on New Policy Feb. 28; Searches Could Start Next

Dogs may be man's best friend, but for some Pleasanton students, in
the not-too-distant future, they may be anything but.

The Pleasanton school board has approved a plan to allow drug
detection dogs to do scent searches of student and teacher parking
lots and gym lockers, although the board held off giving final
approval until it finalizes its policy to address the issue.

Using dogs to sniff for drugs can be traced to 1971, when, during the
war in Vietnam, dogs were trained to scent on marijuana in an effort
to curb its use by military personnel. The idea was soon adopted by
U.S. customs for use in airports and border crossings, and picked up
by police departments nationwide. Pleasanton has had its own dogs for
30 years, according to Lt. Scott Rohovit, and currently has three
dogs, two for sniffing drugs and one used to detect explosives.

Officer Tim Martens works with Camo, 9, a Dutch shepherd from Holland;
Martens said most police dogs come from Europe. In the U.S., he said,
dogs are bred for their physical appearance; in Europe, dogs are bred
for competitions that include agility, fending off an attacker and
paramilitary exercises.

Thinking of police dogs might bring to mind large, frightening dogs
like Doberman pinschers, but the two drug dogs in Pleasanton seem a
far cry from that.

Camo, for example, seems just like a friendly family dog, which he is,
most of the day.

"When he's at home, he's pretty mellow," Martens said.

Even while at work, it seems he's just as happy to be goofing off as
sniffing out drugs. Martens said with Camo, whom he's had for 6 years,
he's got the best of both worlds.

"I get to go to work every day with my buddy," Martens said. "And when
a crime comes down, we're right in the thick of things."

Martens and Camo work the day shift, while Officer Mark Sheldon works
nights with Falco, a 2-year-old purebred German shepherd from the
Czech Republic. They say most of the work is routine but far from boring.

Largely, they're brought in to search when an officer making a traffic
stop suspects drugs are in a car, or when someone on probation or
parole is stopped. Parolees and probationers have search clauses
issued by the courts that allow police to search them, their cars and
homes without a warrant.

Falco, who began working with Sheldon last October, is also used to
enter a business when an alarm goes off and there are signs of forced
entry, although Sheldon said officers always follow up and search the
premises themselves.

"It's your job to put him in the places where he's going to succeed,"
Sheldon said.

The two dogs react to drugs -- marijuana, heroin, MDMA, commonly known
as ecstasy, and methamphetamines -- in different ways. Camo scratches
when he scents drugs, while Falco is a passive alert dog, meaning he
sits when he gets a scent.

Martens said the dogs don't have any direct contact with

"We never use the dogs to search people," he said, which fits with the
school district's plan to use them out of the presence and sight of

Police have said they would not charge the district for the

Other school districts

Pleasanton isn't the first local district to use dogs. Both Livermore
and Dublin have used dogs for searches, while the San Ramon Valley
hasn't even considered them, according to school district spokesman
Terry Koehne.

"We do not use them currently, and we have not had any conversations
about using them at this point," Koehne said.

Dublin Superintendent Steve Henke said they haven't been used in the
six years he's been with the district, but said that's about to change.

"We actually have had it in our policy for a time," he

Henke explained that the district had used an outside service that was
discontinued. Now, he said, the district plans to work with Dublin
police, much like the plan for Pleasanton.

"It's been a while," Henke said. "I would say that it does prove to be
a deterrent, as part of a program. Drug prevention education is
critically important in this."

Drug-sniffing dogs are an active part of the Livermore school
district's war on drugs, according to Assistant Superintendent Chris
Van Schaack.

"We believe it's been very effective in helping modify the culture at
school campuses," Van Schaack said. "We don't believe the drug dogs
are going to modify the behavior of students, but we want 8 o'clock to
4 o'clock to be sacred."

For the last five or six years -- since Van Schaack was principal at
Granada High School -- the dogs have been brought in six to 10 times a
year at random.

"The first couple of years we only did it two or three times," he
said. "We were real careful to follow all the guidelines."

The dogs are used a little more aggressively than is planned for
Pleasanton: In Livermore, when they're brought in, students are asked
to leave their backpacks behind in the classroom and class is held
somewhere else.

"We have the kids go on, we call them field trips. The kids go outside
and study," Van Schaack said.

Like Henke in Dublin, Van Schaack said the dogs are mainly a deterrent
and should be part of a bigger drug prevention program; similarly,
Pleasanton school board members said searches here would be part of a
"multi-pronged program."

Van Schaack said it's impossible to know how well they work because
the district didn't know how many students were bringing drugs to
school in the first place. But he noted that 10 students have been
found to have drugs in their possession in the last five or six years.

"Typically it's zero or one (per search). And recently, I think they
haven't found anything in five or six times," he said. "Kids say other
kids still sell and do drugs, but not there."

Van Schaack also said the dogs have been accurate.

"Not one single time has a dog hit on a car or a locker or a backpack
that we didn't find something," he said.


Van Schaack's assertion that the dogs are accurate has been challenged
elsewhere, and their questionable accuracy is a problem for Pleasanton
School Board Member Jamie Hintzke.

An analysis by the Chicago Tribune in January 2011 showed over a
three-year period that dogs were correct only about 44% of the time,
and only about 27% for Hispanic drivers. In the piece, dog handlers
defended the findings, noting that the scent of drugs and
paraphernalia can last long after drugs are sold or used.

However, the piece noted that even advocates of drug dogs agreed with
experts who say many of the dogs and handlers "are poorly trained and
prone to false alerts."

The analysis also noted that officers' personal biases can lead a dog
to scent drugs when none is present.

Legal issues

Opponents of Pleasanton's plan to implement drug detection dogs have
vowed to sue, claiming a violation of students' Fourth Amendment
protection against warrantless searches and seizures, although
students on school grounds don't have the same rights as adults. For a
student to be searched, all school administrators need is a reasonable
suspicion, which is a legal proof less than probable cause.

In pushing for the drug dogs, Kevin Johnson, Pleasanton school
district's senior director of pupil services, cited a 2010 Connecticut
case in which Harold Burbank sued the board of education in the town
of Canton. The court concluded that a warrantless sweep using
drug-sniffing dogs was not a search under the Fourth Amendment
"because students do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in
the odor or 'aroma' emanating from their unattended lockers and motor
vehicles on school property."

The Connecticut court also found that ordering students to remain in
their classrooms did not constitute a seizure because school officials
are authorized to schedule student activities during the school day;
the students were allowed to leave their classrooms in the case of an
emergency; and much of the time the students were kept in their normal

However, in California, a 2000 opinion by then-Attorney General Bill
Lockyer said:

"(S)chool administrators at a public high school may not implement a
policy requiring on an unannounced, random, and neutral basis that (1)
pupils be directed to vacate their classrooms and leave behind their
personal belongings, including backpacks, purses, jackets, and outer
garments, for sniffing by canines trained in the detection of drugs,
(2) the pupils would proceed to a location not within the immediate
vicinity of the canines and would remain away from the canines at all
times, and (3) if a canine's behavior indicated the presence of drugs,
the pupil's personal belongings would be searched by the school
administrators without the pupil's consent."

Cases in California have shown individual districts handling the
situation differently. In 1997, Galt Joint Union High School District
dropped its plan to use drug detection dogs after the threat of a
lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California,
according to ACLU-NC spokeswoman Laura Saponara.

In that case, the district also agreed to pay lawyers' fees to end the
case, Saponara said.

A 1999 case brought by a student at a high school in Plumas County
dismissed the student's claim that his Fourth Amendment rights had
been violated.

But a 2009 search at La Canada Unified School District in Southern
California prompted the district to revise its policies after the
constitutionality of the school district's search and seizure
practices were questioned by a parent who is a career federal public
defender, according to the La Canada Valley Sun. Guy

Iversen, the father of two sons who were subject to that search, told
the school board that, "Technically, if you don't have justification,
that's a kidnapping."

He said students' rights were violated when they were separated from
their personal belongings against their will and without reasonable

The U.S. Supreme Court may have the final word on the matter. While it
has ruled on drug detection dogs in the past, the court has agreed to
hear a new case, Florida v. Jardines. That case, involving a drug
detection dog outside an alleged marijuana grow house, may change how
dogs can be used in searches.

It's unlikely, however, that the court will rule before the Pleasanton
board lets drug dogs start their searches here. The board expects to
have its new policy allowing the searches in place by Feb. 28. With
approval by Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi, a search could be done the
next day.
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