Dog searches criticized
Contraband-sniffing canines in schools may violate students' rights, the ACLU says
WAILUKU » The head of the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union has called the state's plan for contraband-sniffing canines in schools a "dragnet search" trying to get around the Constitution.
"Whether or not it's an appropriate security measure -- that remains to be seen," said Vanessa Chong, the Hawaii ACLU's executive director.
Chong said her organization was very concerned that the rights of many people might be violated to catch a few, if any, with contraband.
She said the organization wasn't opposed to a search as long as "individualized suspicion" was established about a student.
But Chong raised questions about whether the searches contradicted state education rules against random searches.
The state Department of Education plans to start a canine-sniffing pilot program at Kalama Intermediate School in Upcountry Maui to detect drugs, alcohol and firearms.
The program eventually will expand to other schools, including Lahainaluna High School, Lahaina Intermediate and Lanai High and Elementary School.
The unannounced searches would take place in common areas, including cafeterias, gymnasiums and hallway lockers, but would not be done upon students and their backpacks, purses and vehicles, according to the state Department of Education.
Department spokesman Greg Knudsen said the state Attorney General's Office has reviewed the dog-sniffing program and has been very cautious about respecting privacy rights in developing the search procedures.
Knudsen said the Attorney General's Office was still reviewing the procedures and might be making adjustments in the protocols used for searches.
Knudsen said the four Maui schools had expressed an interest in the canine-sniffing program and that Kalama was the first prepared to go forward with the pilot project.
Knudsen said choosing Kalama for the pilot project was not based on whether there was a drug problem in the school.
State surveys about the school's performance in the past several years indicates there have been students suspended for robbery, burglary and illegal drugs.
The school principal and superintendent who authorized the program were unavailable for comment.
State education officials have scheduled a public meeting about the canine-sniffing program tonight at the Kalama Intermediate cafeteria.