Although many Connecticut school districts have policies that permit the administration to bring in drug-detecting dogs to sniff unattended school property (such as student lockers) in an effort to locate illegal drugs, no Connecticut court had addressed the constitutionality of such searches. After such dogs were used in one school district in 2008, however, a group of parents filed a lawsuit in Connecticut Superior Court, alleging that the district’s policy permitted unconstitutional searches and seizures of students. The parents requested an injunction preventing the district from conducting any further searches without advance notice to parents. In its September 2009 ruling, the court rejected the parents’ claims, finding that using drug-detecting dogs on unattended school property was not a search, and that the students are not seized when they are held in their classrooms while the dogs are sniffing the unattended student lockers. This is the first ruling from a Connecticut court on the use of drug-detecting dogs within a public school, and it provides school districts with clear language that supports the use of such dogs in a district’s effort to maintain a drug-free educational environment. A copy of the decision can be found here.
This issue is also active in Texas, where one school district just implemented a policy that calls for random drug testing of all students in grades 6 though 12. Under this policy, every student will be subject to random testing, regardless of whether their parents or guardians have completed a consent form, and students with positive tests will face disciplinary action. The school district has set forth some interesting arguments in favor of testing all students and not limiting testing to those in extracurricular activities–for example, school-wide testing will provide students with a good reason for not trying drugs and resisting peer-pressure. Nevertheless, this policy faces some significant legal challenges, as courts in the past have struck down such broad testing programs. Therefore, this case should be watched carefully. For additional information, click here.