A Labrador retreiver named Cody could put some teeth into Lawrence High School's anti-drug policies by performing random checks of students' cars and lockers.
LHS Principal Brad Tate told the Lawrence school board Monday that starting next semester, the school will employ the Douglas County Sheriff's drug-sniffing dog to perform occasional, random drug searches at the school.
Tate said that in discussing drugs with several classes at LHS, "I got enough comments and looks to know that there are some things going on and that things are available."
Tate said he would be pleased if the dog didn't find anything. He said that if students are aware of the dog and its drug-sniffing capabilities, "I think it'll serve as a deterrent."
"I just see it all as what you do to try to keep your campus drug-free," Tate said. "I know it doesn't solve the problems of society, the problems of the community, but I'd like to take a little more responsibility for the (school's) 40 acres."
LHS ALREADY has a policy stating that "lockers, desks and such other assigned areas are the property of the Lawrence Public Schools" and that "the contents thereof shall be subjected to inspection and search by school officials at any time without prior notice if there is reasonable suspicion that such will produce evidence of violations of law or of school rules."
Cindy Kelly, deputy general counsel for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said such school policies already have been supported in court.
As for searching a student's automobile while on school property, Kelly said law enforcement officers normally would be required to have probable cause to conduct such a search on their own.
However, she said, some court cases have suggested that if school officials instigate the search with the assistance of law enforcement officers, all that is needed is reasonable suspicion that the student is violating the law.
THE TRAINED snout of a dog is enough to provide reasonable suspicion, she said.
Putnam City North High School in Putnam, Okla., has used a trained canine to conduct random drug searches for about five years.
North Principal Kent Mathers said that in that time, the number of suspensions for possession of drugs or alcohol has decreased significantly. He said the random searches probably help students fight peer pressure to bring drugs or alcohol to school.
"I think a lot of students felt kind of relieved once the searches began because they had a real good excuse for not bringing something on campus," Mathers said.
Mathers said illegal substances are more likely to be found in students' cars than in their lockers. Like LHS students, Putnam North students share lockers. But there has never been any problem determining who is in violation when illegal substances are found in a locker, Mathers said.
LHS JUNIOR Ravi Shanmugam told the Journal-World he thinks conducting random searches is a good idea.
"I think it's a great addition to the level of security," Shanmugam said.
He said he isn't overly concerned about a student being falsely accused of drug possession if that student's locker-mate has stashed drugs in the locker.
"I think you have to put some faith in the judgment of the administrators when you take steps like this," Shanmugam said.
LHS junior Jennifer Lehman said she also supports the random searches.
"I think it's a good idea because it's illegal for kids to have it (drugs or alcohol), and you shouldn't subject other kids at the high school to that," she said. "You shouldn't have it anywhere on the campus."
Tate said the searches probably will be performed about four times a month.