Although the idea may not be popular with some parents, the Northport Board of Education is looking into meeting the Suffolk County Police Department’s requirements for “qualified” status to conduct random sweeps of the high school for narcotics and marijuana using a detection dog.
In order to request the service, Northport High School must notify all parents and legal guardians in writing of the following policy:
- The school owns all lockers, locks, combinations and/or keys to all lockers on school property.
- Students do not have any right or expectation of privacy for anything stored within school lockers.
- The sole purpose of locks is to prevent the theft of property stored within the locker.
- The school maintains the right to access lockers at any time with or without advanced notice.
- Students have no right to lock school-owned lockers with personally owned locks. If so, the school has the right to remove them.
- Students are solely responsible for items contained within their school-assigned lockers.
- Students should never share their combinations or allow other students to share their lockers and should immediately notify the school administrators if their lockers do not function properly.
Spearheaded by Trustee Joe Sabia, the idea gained support at the Aug. 31 Board meeting, with trustees agreeing to examine current district policies regarding locker privileges and codes of conduct.
Northport High School Principal Irene McLaughlin said she had spoken to Superintendent Marylou McDermott about the sweeps, and that it would be a good idea to bring the Drug and Alcohol Task Force into the discussion. If the community is ready to take the step, McLaughlin said, “We’ll support it.”
Trustee Donna McNaughton was in favor of the idea and suggested that the Board hold a public work session.
“If we can help one kid, it’s worth it,” said McNaughton.
Trustee Lori McCue suggested involving the PTAs as well, and added that she didn’t think it was an invasion of privacy.
If sweeps occur, they would take place in an area determined by school officials. Students in that area would be kept in their classrooms for the duration of the sweep, which would be completed within a single period. Targeted sweeps of individual lockers would not occur. If the dog “indicates” to a locker, the locker would be searched, and a uniformed Second Precinct police officer would be responsible for any contraband seized. School officials would be required to provide the police with the name, date of birth, and address of the student, and the police could effect a summary arrest.
A canine sniff of property is not considered a search under the Fourth Amendment because it is a non-targeted and random sweep. A canine narcotics search is a targeted, non-random search of a specific area or locker.
In July, the Drug and Alcohol Task Force presented the 2010-2011 NYS Youth Development Survey to Board members. Among the findings: parental attitudes towards alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are above state norms in grades 9-12. A PDF of the full report is attached to this article.