Use caution in search for school contraband
The state Board of Education is considering searches of student lockers and expanded use of dogs to sniff for drugs in schools.
SCHOOL board members appear headed toward increased security on campus, including searches of student lockers
and expanded use of dogs to sniff for drugs. The purpose is to detect the presence of illicit drugs on campus, and the cost will be students' expectation of privacy at school, a cost that the board should avoid except under the most dire circumstances.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett has given assurance to board members that locker searches "at any time with or without reason or cause" would pass constitutional scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the issue, but some state courts have ruled in favor of the searches.
Opponents of the locker searches contend that they would violate the Fourth Amendment infringement of student's expectation of privacy. However, if students are aware that school officials have a master key or lock combinations to the lockers and can access them whenever they choose, the expectation of privacy evaporates and the Fourth Amendment is undisturbed.
Courts in some states have ruled that students maintain a right to privacy to the contents of their lockers but have been prone to determine that the school's interest, such as locating guns or drugs, outweighs the student's privacy right. Concerns that Hawaii's school system would open itself to legal liability are unwarranted.
Maui school officials report success in the use of a golden retriever to sniff out drugs and alcohol at three schools under a pilot program. A school board committee also has recommended approval to expand that program.
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