Members of the Churchill County community concerned the ACLU of Nevada with an administrative regulation which would allow drug dogs to sniff the belongings of high school students. These searches would be totally suspicionless and random in a school district that purports to have no serious drug problem.

Lee Rowland, Northern Coordinator of the ACLU of Nevada, spoke at a Churchill County School Board meeting in opposition of the proposed administrative regulation. She told the school board that although the policy may be a well intentioned effort to curtail perceived drug use, it demonstrates a clear lack of common sense and respect for the Constitution. She added that schools already have the power to carry out comprehensive searches based on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

Plans to deploy drug-sniffing dogs throughout our schools and to subject student lockers and personal belongings to opening and inspection any time with or without reason or cause would have little bearing on student safety. Dragnet searches are demonstrably ineffective at their ultimate goal: increased student safety.

If student well-being is truly the principal concern, Churchill County would do far better to stress fact-based education about the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse, as well as training educators to identify, aid, and counsel students in need of assistance.

Routine dog sniffs and unsubstantiated searches severely erode trust between students and teachers, and undermine the sense of community so necessary to effective education. Schools should instill students with admiration and respect for our fundamental rights – providing, not undermining, the means necessary to become active and accountable participants in our democratic system. Abandoning the Constitution must not become a rite of passage for our nation’s youth.

The well-being of our students is best served by upholding their fundamental rights, not sacrificing those rights for a false sense of security. Our schools must both protect students today and provide them the tools to protect themselves in the future. The deployment of drug dogs fails on both accounts. Making the presence of drug dogs an everyday occurrence in our schools is unfounded and indefensible. Schools should foster safety based on trust, not the surveillance tactics of a police state.

This policy would send a negative message to Churchill County’s students that the Constitution and its protections do not apply to our youth, and are reserved for adults only. As developing citizens of our nation, these students should receive a civic education that includes a healthy respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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