Drug-sniffing dogs are the beginning of the end of our rights as students


Canela Lopez

Drug-sniffing dogs are detrimental to our school. Photo Illustration Credit: Claire Stockdill & Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press
Drug-sniffing dogs are detrimental to our school. Photo Illustration Credit: Claire Stockdill & Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press

It’s funny to think about how human rights are taken away. Everyone always pictures it as a big brother takeover by a totalitarian regime and suddenly all of your basic human rights are gone. But this is simply not the case. It all starts with something as seemingly harmless as drug-sniffing dogs.

Drug-sniffing dogs were recently brought into school classrooms at Ventura Unified School District schools to conduct a “safety check” for drugs, and other harmful substances. Soon after the students were alerted on the matter, waves of controversy erupted amongst students, teachers and alumni alike. Now the question is why should we care? If you aren’t bringing drugs onto the campus it doesn’t affect you, right? Wrong.

These searches affect every single student that currently, previously, or will eventually attend a VUSD school.

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and the same can be said about oppression. Human rights don’t evaporate over night. Conditions of tolerance for mistreatment and acceptance of higher powers trying to find loopholes in laws regarding freedom must be set before the totalitarian regime sets in. For instance, the Holocaust didn’t appear over night, a tone of silence was shrouded over Germany before it could begin. First came the rights imposing Laws of 1935, then the Nuremberg Laws, then the ghettoes, and finally after years of their rights subtly crawling away like mice, the Final solution was put into action and the mouse trap snapped the neck of freedom for Eastern European Jews.

I am not saying that drug-sniffing dog in the classroom will lead to a Holocaust or anything to that extremity, but it is very apparent that little changes in our freedoms can lead to massive movements in our rights. The district may euphemistically call these searches “safety checks,” but no matter what you rebrand them as, they are searches. Searches without the slightest bit of probable cause.

The classrooms that the dogs search are randomly selected. The handler has absolutely no idea whether anyone in the classroom has contraband on them or not, so they are stripping away the rights of privacy to innocent people. The saying goes innocent until proven guilty and I couldn’t agree more. Every student in that class is innocent, even if they are carrying contraband, until proven guilty and the district should not be able to search our personal belongings or as they put is, “the air around” our personal belongings. They have been given no prior knowledge to these drug-carrying students so they have no probable cause to suspect them.

Not only is it against our constitutional rights to privacy, but it also begins to make us walk along the thin tightrope between safety and lack of rights. For now, all that has been authorized are the dog searches, but what if the district decides that this isn’t enough and that metal detectors need to be installed? Maybe a few months after that, even the metal detectors won’t be enough for the sake of our safety. Then what? Full body pat downs? Strip searches? The possibilities are endless and will be the death of our rights.

The main argument used when trying to defend this attack on our rights is that of safety. Students need to be kept safe from drugs, alcohol and weapons, and these dogs can help insure their safety so why are they so bad?

It’s nice to think that these dogs will act solely to keep us safe. It’s also nice to think that the searches won’t become any more severe than this, but they will, because when rights are chipped away it is inevitable that the entire chunk of human dignity will be demolished with it.

There have been many false “safety precautions” taken to ensure the well-being of the people, at the cost of our dignity and constitutional rights. The Patriot Act, signed on October 26, 2001, was a law meant to protect American citizens from the wicked hands of terrorists. It allowed the government to conduct wiretaps, property searches, surveillance records, and search business files of all individuals suspected to be connected with a terrorist organization. The very structure of this law made it a perfect subject to fail due to the fact that it was solely fueled by racial paranoia. Paranoia that Al-Qaida would attack the U.S. again, paranoia that we would be bombed. This paranoia caused many innocent people to be unlawfully searched and accused of horrendous crimes they did not commit. Their rights were seized from them and they did nothing to lose them.

Paranoia is what dictates the drug dog policy. With all of the recent school shootings and spike in teenage drug problems, the district is desperate to try and keep the students safe by any means necessary. Though they have the best intentions in mind, by letting fear take control, they are taking away the rights of students who have never tried a drug in their life, nor drunken alcohol, nor shot a gun.

These students have done nothing wrong, yet they are punished by being lumped in with the people who do commit crimes and have justification for losing the privileges to their 4th Amendment rights.

So before drug-sniffing dogs turn into metal detectors and metal detectors turn into full body pat downs, let’s all take a minute to stop, clear our brains of the chaos of terror and paranoia, and think about the consequences down the road on this tight rope we are walking between safety and injustice.

What do you think?