Parents should be calling on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to start using drug-sniffing dogs at our high schools and middle schools as a deterrent and a way to sniff out those bad apples who have the potential to spoil the whole bunch.

Parents of students at Santa Monica High School met this week to discuss the rise this school year in narcotics arrests at the campus. According to school officials, there have been 35 drug arrests at Samohi as of last week. There were only 17 during the entire previous school year. A majority of those arrests involved prescription drugs, which are gaining popularity amongst the youth of today, particularly powerful pain killers like Vicodin and OxyContin. While pot is still the most widely abused drug by far, prescription pills pose a more serious and deadly threat given their potency, particularly when combined with other prescription drugs.

One parent whose daughter was arrested for possessing Ecstacy told the Daily Press that he wants the district and the Santa Monica Police Department to start using drug-sniffing dogs, and we agree. Currently, the SMPD does not do narcotics sweeps at schools using dogs. The district and the SMPD need to partner up and conduct at least two random sweeps a year at each high school.

There are those who will argue that the sweeps are a violation of a student’s privacy, disrupt the educational process, are ineffective and are not compatible with nurturing environments that are supposed to be conducive to learning and self-expression.

Some of those points are valid, but when the number of drug arrests reach the level seen at Samohi, the severity of the situation and the health and safety of the students outweighs those concerns.

Certainly the sweeps should occur while students are in class so there is as little disruption as possible. Students should not be alerted that the sweeps are taking place. Also, if dogs detect drugs in a locker, a student should not be escorted out of class and made to stand by the locker or searched by officers in front of their peers. There needs to be sensitivity given that sometimes the dogs are wrong. There’s no need to do harm to a student’s reputation for a false alarm.

Those who are arrested need to be removed from school until they prove that they are drug free and ready to learn. If a student is caught with a little marijuana, make them do community service and additional class work. If a student is caught selling cocaine or other hard drugs, kick them out. The punishment should fit the crime.

The Daily Press believes that when students are on campus administrators have the right to search their backpacks or lockers if there is reasonable suspicion that drugs are being consumed, carried or sold. We believe the use of the dogs will deter students from bringing drugs to campus. Now, what happens outside of school falls on the parents. There still needs to be education and awareness. Parents cannot hide from this responsibility. If they do, their child may be expelled, or worse, die from an overdose.

Drug dogs won’t keep all the narcotics out, but what they will do is raise awareness and scare off some kids who may be thinking about buying or selling drugs. This is not about making arrests. This is about protecting kids by making it as hard as possible to bring drugs into school.

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