Civil Liberties

No Warrant, No Problem: Students' Lockers Searched at Random By Drug Dogs



Students at various public schools in West Michigan are subjected to random searches performed by a specialty canine unit that uncovers dangerous contraband in kids' lockers. Really scary stuff, like hunting gear, pocketknives, fire crackers, prescription medication. Maybe a gun-shaped Pop-Tart or two.

According to

The dogs, which are trained to find drugs, alcohol, gun powder-based products, tobacco and medications, also are used locally in Grandville, Forest Hills, East Kentwood and Byron Center schools among 46 districts across the state. East Grand Rapids uses the city's public safety department to conduct regular searches on its high school campus.

Records obtained by MLive and the Grand Rapids Press under the Freedom of Information Act show the findings by dogs at area schools are relatively low compared to overall student population, but educators believe the more vigilant they are, the better for students.

The public records request showed the discovery of more than 86 prohibited substances or items at the area schools that have used Interquest since 2011. Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana or drug paraphernalia were the most common finds, but dogs also alerted to fireworks and a toy cap gun among other items banned from school property.

The searches are performed at random, meaning that no single student is ever the target. Administrators hold this up as good and fair—we are trampling your rights, but it's not personal!—but the ACLU is skeptical:

"It turns students into suspects in a place where we should be nurturing them and focusing on their learning," said Marc Allen, of the ACLU of Michigan. "There are ways to do a search that are more narrow and don't implicate people's privacy rights."

I can think of no better way to prepare children to accept the police state with open arms than to begin subjecting them to completely undeserved searches in their formative years. These searches teach them that they have no privacy—there is no place the authorities can't touch. They have no right to question or resist. They need not have done anything wrong. Dubious safety concerns—seize the fishing knives!—will always trump common sense.

It's true that some students bring prohibited substances onto school property. Of course, so do the dogs' handlers:

On this day, "Murphy" is led by Kim Heys, who owns the Michigan Interquest franchise. The 5-year-old canine rolled through the halls with his nose to the ground until he picked up a suspicious scent inside a locker and sat down next to it. Heys rewarded him with a toy and a school security officer opened the door.

Heys pulled out a small container labeled "pseudo heroin" and sealed it in a plastic bag. The imitation narcotic was one of several substances she and the other handlers had planted prior to the search to be sure the canines are performing.

Safety first, kids.