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Pleasanton schools decide to teach warrantless dog-sniff searches by example

Posted on in Criminal Defense

School district trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Pleasanton police dogs to stroll through the parking lots of the high schools to conduct random warrantless searches. The dogs reportedly will be allowed inside the physical education locker rooms when students are not present to sniff for contraband. Additionally, the high school principals will be authorized to seek approval to request warrantless searches.

Four of the five trustees voted to delay implementation of the new dog sniff protocol until the school district can develop a policy for conducting the random warrantless dog sniff searches. Sources say that could take until the end of February. One of the trustees voted against waiting to develop a policy, saying the drug problem is urgent.

Although the district superintendent claims that the alleged drug problem in Pleasanton schools does not involve every student, presumably, every student may be subject to the police dog scrutiny, even if the student is not involved.

Critics of the dog-sniff program argue that less-threatening methods to promote safety are available. The intimidating presence of law enforcement conducting warrantless searches on high school campuses may not be the proper role of the school system, according to critics of the new policy.

If someone tampers with a car outside, for example, potential false accusations of drug crimes may become possible for a student. Similarly, false alerts from the dogs could cause issues for students when the district implements its new planned policy of random dog-sniff searches the Pleasanton, California, high schools.

The issues of increased distraction and potential false alerts or false accusations of California drug crimes are not the only issues that opponents of the new policy are concerned about. The aura of an increased police state could lead to trust issues as the student's personal constitutional freedoms are further diminished by the new government action.

The school district historically has had a policy of suspending students for drug-related reasons. School officials say there have been 63 such suspensions this year.

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Pleasanton school board signs off on police dog drug patrols," Robert Jordan, Jan. 25, 2012

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