BCCLA condemns Abbotsford School Board over drug dogs

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is challenging the Abbotsford School Board to drop their plan to use drug sniffing dogs in Abbotsford schools.

BCCLA Executive Director Murray Mollard: “The School Board is embarking on a disastrous path that will certainly lead to false accusations and wrongly stigmatize students as drug users. We have tried to open their eyes but they have ignored our warnings and seem more interested to impress with the message that they are getting ‘tough on drugs’. Moreover, we do not believe that this policy will eliminate drugs in the schools.”

The Abbotsford School Board will debate their draft drug policy on Monday evening, November 22, 2004. The BCCLA believes that they are poised to adopt the recommendations from their policy committee that drug dogs be used in the schools.

The BCCLA has sent two letters to the School Board and met with Board Chair Joanne Field and member Uultsje DeJong on September 23, 2004 to persuade them to drop this misguided policy. The BCCLA has repeatedly warned the Board of the danger of “false alerts” when drug dogs indicate the existence of drugs in student lockers when in fact no drugs are present. Research indicates that drug dogs searching on a random basis for drugs will identify the presence of drugs correctly a mere 20% of the time. The high rate of false alerts will most certainly lead to traumatic, intrusive and demeaning experiences for students who will unavoidably be stigmatized as drug users even when no drugs are found. The BCCLA expects the policy will likely lead to litigation.

At the School Board’s invitation, the BCCLA provided a much more sensible, effective and respectful alternative to drug dogs: drug and alcohol counselors for students. Such counselors would be much more effective at preventing drug problems through education as well as providing meaningful assistance to students who actually have a drug use problem – a serious health issue.

The BCCLA has not received a substantive reply to any of its submissions.

Mollard: “It is regrettable that School Board members in Abbotsford have disregarded our concerns. We had hoped for more informed leadership from those who are supposed to be responsible for educating our youth.”

For a copy of BCCLA letters sent to the Abbotsford School Board, contact Mr. Mollard