Drug-sniffing dogs at local schools raise concerns - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Drug-sniffing dogs at local schools raise concerns

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Are students at San Diego High School being unfairly targeted for drug searches? Parents say a drug-sniffing dog has been in twice since school began just weeks ago and they want answers.

Critics of the searches point to studies that say they can result in false alerts and the ACLU contends that drug-sniffing dogs in schools make every student a suspect.

Monday evening parents were inside the library here at San Diego High School raising concerns privacy over the school district's new drug-sniffing dog. But the district police chief and some students say the random searches deter drug activity on campus.

Blitz, a German Shepherd drug-sniffing dog, is a new employee in the San Diego Unified School District. The district is able to afford his skills to sniff meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana through a $60,000r grant over five years. But some parents believe his sniffs invade a student's privacy.

“A student has the right to a safe and drug-free school and we're trying to preserve that right,” said Chief Rueben Littlejohn with the SDUSD Police Department.

The school district police chief says this year Blitz has made eight sniffs - two at San Diego High School, but no drugs were found there or at the other schools.

“We try and figure out who it was, who would be stupid enough to bring drugs, because it's something I don't advocate," said Antonio Torres, a San Diego High School junior.

Chief Littlejohn says notes went home to parents letting them know there's a full-time K9 who will do random searches requested by the principal. The students are not sniffed by the dog and they do not engage with the K9. The classrooms are cleared and then searched by Blitz.

“I think it's a good thing. They should have it more often,” continued Torres.

But not all students, parents or the ACLU believe the false alert searches are not justified - especially if nothing is found.

Chief Littlejohn also says instead the focus should be on having a drug free life on campus and at home.

“We're really concerned parents should take this as an opportunity to begin having the conversation with their students and children on what they see,” he added.

Since 2002 the district called on contracted drug dogs to sniff schools who paid for the service. With Blitz that program is now being dissolved.

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