Approximately 600 lockers at Alta High School were opened and sniffed for drugs by police dogs last week, and the American Civil Liberties Union and some students are not happy about it.
Principal Doug Anderson said the search turned up a plastic bag of marijuana in one locker, for which a student was suspended and referred to juvenile court. He was pleased that officials didn't find more drugs.Thompson said he wasn't at liberty to discuss exactly what prompted the search, but Alta High officials had checked out the legalities and gotten school board approval to do a search if a reason warranting it came along.
"We weren't sitting here in a spring-loaded position waiting for some little excuse." But, he said, "some reasonable people in the school district, the school here, the police departments of the county and the city felt like it was a good thing to do - or necessary, whatever. We looked at the thing carefully, and then when the situation came along that warranted it, we acted."
Michele Parish-Pixler, acting executive director of the ACLU of Utah, said she was called by a couple of students who objected to the search. She conceded Thompson's point that the school can legally search the lockers because they are school property.
But she said that outside a school context, such a search requires a showing of probable cause to suspect wrongdoing, and if schools want to teach students the principles of citizenship they should adopt a similar standard.
"I think that it is a wave of drug hysteria that we're dealing with now," she said. She objected to Thompson's suggestion in a published news report that the ACLU was pro-drug. People are too ready to trample individual rights and accuse anyone who objects of being pro-drug, she said, drawing a parallel with the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.
Anderson said he doesn't recall having said earlier that the ACLU was pro-drug. But he told the Deseret News, "Seems to me she's probably pro-drug. Maybe not. Maybe she's pro-individual rights. But it could be construed that way."
The principal said he thinks Parish-Pixler is "up in the night," but that he understands her point about not violating individual rights out of drug hysteria.