Just Say No to Drug Dogs at Gig Harbor High School

Monday, May 24, 2010

As reported by the Peninsula Gateway, recently “drug-sniffing dogs from multiple agencies visited Gig Harbor High School” to sniff out any illicit drugs. What exactly did the dogs find? Upon searching a student’s car, “a trace amount of marijuana shake was found in the cup holders and center console area, but no quantity was located for destruction or booking, according to the Gig Harbor Police Department.”

“Trace amounts,” in one car, that’s it. So was treating every student at the school like a criminal suspect worth it? I think not.

Substance abuse by youth is a serious issue that has been ongoing for decades. Drug possession and use at schools isn't and shouldn’t be allowed. However, involving the criminal justice system at a school-wide level, in which all students are presumed suspect without any evidence of wrongdoing, is a bad idea. Some schools, such as the Nine Mile Falls School District north of Spokane, have seen the light and discontinued the use of drug dogs. Schools should be a place where students feel safe and secure and can learn in a nurturing environment. In the event that a student develops a substance abuse problem, it should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one. Students struggling with addiction need medical help, not a trip to the juvenile detention center. 

Unfortunately, the use of drug dogs in schools is increasing. This can only lead to more incidents such as the one that occurred at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina in 2003. Watch for yourself:

As the video shows, students as young as 14 were terrorized by police with guns and drug-sniffing dogs in an early-morning SWAT raid. This horrific incident eventually led to a lawsuit by the ACLU

The use of drug dogs and other “zero tolerance” policies are the wrong approach for dealing with drugs in schools. They can lead to disastrous consequences, such as the strip-searching of a 13-year-old girl in hopes of finding an ibuprofen pill (which she didn’t have BTW) or the suspension of a seventh-grader for merely touching another student’s ADHD medicine. We should be equipping our schools with proven treatment and prevention programs - and after-school programming to keep at-risk youth engaged with positive role models - instead of police and drug dogs.

We hope that Gig Harbor High School and Peninsula School District officials discontinue suspicionless drug dog searches. 

It’s time to just say no to drug dogs in schools…