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Drug dogs on campus'

The Medford School Board next week will consider a policy allowing police to search for drugs on school property

Drug detection dogs could sniff out the halls of Medford schools under a revised policy the school board will consider adopting Tuesday.

Meant to deter students from bringing illicit items on campuses, the revised search and seizure policy would allow school officials to employ dogs from the Medford Police Department to search for drugs on school property with the authorization of the school board or superintendent.

Officials from North and South Medford high schools said even if the revision passes, they have no immediate plans to invite the drug sniffing dogs on campuses.

We are still considering the option, said Rick Parsagian, assistant principal at North Medford.

The revision of the policy also includes language clarifying administrators' authority to search students and their possessions when there is reasonable suspicion.

— School officials or police, acting on their behalf, may conduct random searches of school property as well, including desks and lockers.

If adopted by the school board Tuesday, the policy would be effective immediately.

Similar search and seizure policies have prompted lawsuits in some school districts across the nation.

In one case in 1993 in the Carthage School District in Arkansas, a student was expelled after school officials found cocaine in his coat pocket while they were searching for weapons reported to be on campus.

The student argued school officials had violated his Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an unreasonable search of his person.

A federal district court ruled in favor of the student and awarded him &

36;10,000 in damages.

However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision, finding that the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary rule does not apply to school disciplinary hearings.

David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said campus-wide searches using drug detection dogs or other means violate students' rights, especially those who are innocent of wrongdoing.

It tells the person whose privacy is being invaded they don't have any privacy, Fidanque said. They are considered guilty until proven innocent.

He cautioned school officials against searching students' persons and possessions without reasonable suspicion.

When you search personal property, backpacks and purses, we think you've clearly crossed a line, Fidanque said.

Donnie Frazier, assistant principal at South Medford, said school officials would only search personal possessions when there is reasonable suspicion, whether that is a tip from another student or a signal from a drug detection dog.

It is not our intent to line up students and have dogs sniff them, Frazier said.

The practice of bringing drug dogs on campus is not new to Jackson County.

Eagle Point, Phoenix and Rogue River high schools already employ dogs to root out drugs on campuses.

Jani Hale, principal of Phoenix High School, said she notifies students at the beginning of the school year that the campus is subject to search by drug detection dogs.

We do it 10 minutes after school is dismissed, so there are enough people in the halls that see the dogs, and the word spreads like wildfire, Hale said. It sets a tone of security, support and vigilance.

But we also say, no one is guilty. We are doing this to make students safe.

Doug Jantzi, Medford's district secondary education director, said during his former stint as principal at Thurston High School in Springfield, he used dogs to hunt for illicit substances.

The measure reduced the propensity of drugs on campus, Jantzi said. It was a deterrent mechanism.

Lori Johnson, mother of an eighth-grader at Hedrick Middle School who will attend North Medford next year, said she supports the proposed policy.

With the proliferation of negative influences, like drugs, I think it is our responsibility to be proactive, Johnson said.

Likewise, Andrew Trost, a junior at South Medford, said he would be pleased to see drug detection dogs on campus.

I think I would feel a little more secure at school, Andrew said.

Drug dogs on campus?"pachen@mailtribune.com.

Student lockers like these at North Medford High School would be subject to searches by drug-detection dogs under a revised policy the Medford School District will consider adopting Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven