A recent press report describes a county sheriff's office practice of periodically sweeping a local high school using drug-sniffing dogs. The report quotes the sheriff as saying that the high school sweeps keep the dogs sharp for other drug-detecting work, even when the dogs discover no drugs in the school, which the dogs typically don't. According to the report, the random sweeps serve two purposes, both to catch students who violate high school drug policies and to keep the canine units, both handlers and dogs, in top shape. Drug use among the young and drugs in schools are significant public health concerns. Thus, school officials there and in many other high schools around the country welcome canine drug sweeps while also conducting locker searches and watching for signs of drug possession, distribution, and use. What's to hurt? Read on, and you'll see the risks.
The Ups and Downs of High School Drug Sweeps
Surely, high schools should be maintaining and enforcing policies against student drug possession and use. No parent wants their student to encounter drug dealers and drug abuse in the student's high school. Canine drug sweeps may seem a little over the top, especially when the searches seldom or never turn up any drugs, as in the above reported case. But although the Supreme Court has not ruled directly on high school canine drug-sniff sweeps, federal appellate cases like Horton v. Goose Creek Independent School District have long held the practice permissible under Supreme Court guidance in this area. High school drug sweeps are generally legal, even if they are not always necessary or even wise. Schools are academic environments, not penal institutions. Do you really want a heavy police presence in your student's school, guiding frightening-looking animals up and down the halls, distracting and unnerving students when they seldom, if ever, find any drugs? And high school drug sweeps, when they do discover drugs in a locker, can expose innocent students to significant risks.
The Risks High School Students Face
When police or school officials find drugs in a locker, any number of students, or even persons who are not students, may be responsible for those drugs. With shared and open lockers, and shared and open backpacks, purses, and bags, mistaken charges are a significant risk. Yet the real risks high school students face with drug sweeps aren't so much criminal prosecution but rather school discipline. Criminal prosecution for drugs discovered in a student's locker isn't all that likely. Prosecutors face a very high beyond-a-reasonable-doubt proof burden and other legal and evidentiary challenges to meet in proving a drug-possession case. They also have broad discretion to decide whom to charge. Other than for crimes involving serious violence and injury, prosecutors tend to leave school matters to school discipline. But students face consequences just as serious or even more serious than criminal charges from school discipline. Your student could suffer an unfair and unjust suspension or expulsion simply because of false or mistaken allegations. And school disciplinary proceedings require only a preponderance-of-the-evidence proof burden while offering few or none of the procedural or evidentiary protections for a criminal charge.
If your high school student faces misconduct charges involving drugs, alcohol, or any other behavioral issue, retain national academic administrative defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm for aggressive and effective defense nationwide. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now.