LAHAINALUNA HIGH SCHOOL
Hawaii's teenage reporters tell us about their high school.
COURTESY LAHAINALUNA HIGH SCHOOL
Custer, a golden retriever being used as a drug dog at Lahainaluna High School, awaits orders to search from owner Whitney White. CLICK FOR LARGE
Dogs searching for contraband at Lahainaluna
The random "sniffs" occur only in public areas of the campus
Because of the growing drug problem among Hawaii teens, Lahainaluna High School is using drug-sniffing dogs in an attempt to reduce the use of contraband on the school campus. Four Hawaii public schools have chosen to use the program; private schools such as Saint Louis School and the Academy of the Pacific also use drug-sniffing dogs. Alaska is now the only state that does not incorporate some kind of drug-detection program in its public schools.
KA LEO LUNA
FACULTY ADVISER: Shanda Sasai
EDITOR: Kelsey Fortey
PRINCIPAL: Michael Nakano
ADDRESS: 980 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, HI 96761
TELEPHONE: (808) 662-4000
Maui Complex Area Superintendent Ron Okamura introduced the program, and state Attorney General Mark Bennett gave his approval. Along with Bennett's response, the schools got the blessing of state schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto.
Schools were worried about the legal issues regarding student privacy because the random "sniffs" sometimes occur during school hours. However, the dog, a golden retriever named Custer, is not allowed to "sniff" students or their personal belongings.
Sophomore Kira Carlton felt backpacks and lockers should also be the subject of sniffs.
"Special measures should be taken if the school is serious about stopping drug use," Carlton said.
Dogs are trained to find illicit and prescription drugs, alcohol and gunpowder. All contraband items found during a sniff will be turned over to the police. If more than a pound of marijuana or another drug is found, a police investigation will commence.
Lahainaluna had a demonstration on Feb. 21 and has already participated in two sniffs; the first one turned up a number of items, and the second came up clean.
Guidance teacher and alumnus Nathan Ugale stated that he has not actually witnessed a search of the entire campus. Though he believes the program is a good idea, he also believes that "they need to find a way to be more effective."
Carlton agreed: "No matter what, kids will find a way to beat the system."
Drugs and alcohol can affect a student in many ways, including the ability to function satisfactorily in class. "It seems like everyone does them (drugs), and it is widely accepted as well," said Carlton. Renee Gilsdorf, a Lahaina complex substitute, stated that students who are high during class have a hard time becoming focused or even showing up for class. Gilsdorf thinks that if there were more staff watching the campus, drug use would be reduced.
Vice Principal Joanne Dennis acknowledges that the school has looked into the possibility of increased staff vigilance. The school already has two security guards; each school is allotted one security guard to every 500 kids. The real trouble is not necessarily the use of drugs, but drug dealing.
With the drug dog, the schools hope it will be harder for students to obtain these contraband items.
"We want the campus to be a safe place for staff and students by keeping dangerous substances off campus," added Dennis.