STAR-BULLETIN / DECEMBER 2004
At the private Academy of the Pacific, golden retriever Custer and his handler, Whitney White, give a demonstration on how the dog finds illegal contraband in a locker.
Maui school gets drug-sniffing dog
Seized material will be turned over to the police
WAILUKU » Kalama Intermediate School in Upcountry Maui is scheduled to be the first public school in the state to use specially trained dogs for drugs, alcohol and firearms detection.
The pilot project will eventually have other participants as well, including Lahainaluna High School, Lahaina Intermediate School and Lanai High & Elementary School, said Greg Knudsen, state Department of Education spokesman.
An informational briefing for parents and the community is scheduled to be held tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Kalama Intermediate cafeteria.
An informational briefing during a school assembly will be held at Q Building Field at 8 a.m. Friday.
The first unannounced canine sniff will occur in the near future, according to the state Department of Education.
"To tell you the truth, I want to see it in all secondary schools statewide," said Mary Cochran, the Board of Education member on Maui.
Cochran said the pilot project was initiated by her, after a chance meeting on an interisland flight with an employee of Interquest Detection Canines of Hawaii, the business that is conducting the canine sniffing program.
"The project's purpose is to ensure that our campuses are safe, drug-free and healthy places that support student learning," Cochran said.
Cochran said the schools' ability to detect and confiscate illegal substances and weapons should effectively prevent such items from being brought on campus.
"If we don't find anything, the project is working," she said.
Interquest will be conducting several unannounced canine sniffs on participating campuses.
On each inspection, two school representatives will accompany the Interquest dog and its handler.
Knudsen said seized materials will be turned over to police, and lawful personal items will be returned to the student's parents as soon as practical.
He said for the pilot project, canine sniffs will be limited to common buildings, such as cafeterias and gymnasiums, student lockers, student lounges, student restrooms, school building exteriors, grounds and vegetation.
Knudsen said canine sniffs will not be permitted on people, in classrooms, on personal property such as backpacks or purses, or in vehicles.
The department said the Interquest handlers will prevent their trained dogs from interacting with people while on campus.
The department said the primary purpose is deterrence and that no student shall be subject to school disciplinary actions, even if the items are personally identified.
But it said, according to state law, a student found as responsible for a firearm at school will receive a mandatory one-year expulsion.
The department said any drugs, alcohol or firearms will be turned over to the Maui Police Department, which could investigate, arrest and prosecute illegal acts.
Cochran said a couple of private schools, including Saint Louis, have used a canine sniffing program, and she has not heard that they have experienced any problems about infringing on private rights.
Cochran said she does not know why Kalama was chosen as the pilot school and that the decision was made by the Superintendent Ken Nomura after talks with principals.
Nomura was unavailable for comment.
With an enrollment of some 945 students in the fall, Kalama Intermediate draws students from several communities ranging from rural farm areas of Haiku to affluent suburban areas of Kula.