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Medford school drug-dog policy OK'd

Junior Celeste Reising has seen drug deals unfold in the cafeteria and the bathrooms at North Medford High School.

The youth member of the Jackson County Commission on Children and Families hopes a revised policy the Medford School Board approved Tuesday to allow drug detection dogs on campus will curb such occurrences.

Sometimes it takes someone getting in trouble to realize they need to stop doing drugs and turn their life around, Celeste said.

Effective today, the revised search and seizure policy allows school officials to employ springer spaniels from the Medford Police Department to search for drugs on school property with the authorization of the school board or superintendent.

We recognize drugs are a problem in our community, and this is an action meant as a deterrence, said Superintendent Phil Long.

— The revision also clarifies administrators' authority to search students and their possessions when there is reasonable suspicion.

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

Similar measures across the nation have prompted lawsuits, claiming they violate the Fourth Amendment, but courts have generally upheld schools' right to search students.

Under federal law, school officials may search students under reasonable suspicion, meaning the officials have information or have observed something that gives suspicion of a crime, said Mike Moran, a school board member and a lieutenant with the Medford Police Department.

Law enforcement must have probable cause, or enough evidence to cause them to reasonably believe a crime has been committed, to search someone.

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.

Doug Jantzi, Medford's district secondary education director, said the measure has been effective at Thurston High School in Springfield, where he previously served as principal.

Ana Enriquez, a senior at South Medford High School, said she worries drug-sniffing dogs could discourage some students from attending school.

I know the safety of students is the most important thing, Ana said. But as long as students are in school, they're on the right track, and scaring them off is not a good idea.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail Medford school drug-dog policy OK?d"pachen@mailtribune.com.