Sunday, February 7 , 2016, 2:34 am | Fair 47º

Santa Barbara School Board Renews Contract for Drug-Sniffing Dogs

High school principals want the program for another year to see if the canines are contributing to a decline in drug-related violations

Santa Barbara school board member Pedro Paz, left, speaks out against the district’s contract with Interquest Detection Canines for drug-sniffing dogs, citing a lack of data on the program’s effectiveness. The board ultimately voted 3-2 to renew the contract for another year.
Santa Barbara school board member Pedro Paz, left, speaks out against the district’s contract with Interquest Detection Canines for drug-sniffing dogs, citing a lack of data on the program’s effectiveness. The board ultimately voted 3-2 to renew the contract for another year.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The Santa Barbara Unified School District will have drug detection dogs patrol secondary schools for another year, after the Board of Education narrowly voted Tuesday night to continue the contract with Interquest Detection Canines.

For the past year, Interquest has visited junior high and high schools to have dogs sniff all student cars in the parking lots and a few randomly selected classrooms. The dogs sit down to “alert” officials to controlled substances, and students are allowed to take their belongings — including backpacks — out of the classrooms before the dogs search them, which has made some question the effectiveness of the program. Superintendent Dave Cash said making students leave their belongings has been found to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment by multiple courts.

The program isn’t designed to deal with the root problem of drug use, but it’s a tool to keep drugs off campuses, administrators say.

Cash said the three high school principals want the program for another year to get more data and to see if the dogs are contributing to the decline in drug-related violations.

Data show that the number of controlled-substance violations hit a 10-year low last year, but the trend has been going down for three years.

School board president Monique Limon and board member Pedro Paz voted against the contract extension and raised concerns about the program’s effectiveness.

Limon said she has been concerned about the use of drug dogs from the beginning and voted against the program last year.

“It’s just not an investment I think I feel confident about,” she said Tuesday, adding that every board member wants to keep drugs off campus, but the dogs are “a tool that can’t even be used in its totality” since students can remove their belongings from the classroom before a search.

She and others also expressed concern about false alerts and residual odor, since the dogs can alert on a backpack even if it’s never been around a controlled substance.

Paz said he was concerned about the lack of data showing that the program works as a deterrent, especially since the program will cost $13,500 for the year. He said it’s largely luck that a dog or staff member finds drugs on a campus.

“I can’t make a decision based on data that’s not there,” Paz said.

Board members Gayle Eidelson, Ed Heron and Kate Parker voted to continue the contract and spoke supportively of the program. 

“I’m a firm believer that it keeps drugs off campus,” Heron said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 08.28.13 @ 07:27 AM

Now the School Board of Trustees majority has their own form of a gang injunction.  They vote to spend money on something, anything, just to maintain appearances that they are fixing a bigger problem outside their control.  Tastes good and less filling.

» on 08.28.13 @ 08:24 AM

Drug sniffing dogs reducing drugs on campus   $13, 500.
One child protected from psychosis or life-long drug use   ‘Priceless’

Thanks School Board!

These programs:
1) are associated with keeping lots of drugs off campus,
2) reduce the need for teaching staff to be drug-monitors,
and most importantly, from a parent’s view it
3) gives kids a very plausible reason to refuse drugs. Rather than the age-inappropriate ‘my parents will kill me’ they can simply say, ‘the dogs might find it’.

Marijuana is not what it used to be, THC content in marijuana decades ago was about 1%, now THC content is typically between 3% and 15%.

Children are highly susceptible to illness and injury from marijuana:
9% of children who ever use marijuana become chronic users, with
higher rates of psychosis,
unintended pregnancy, and myriad other problems

Sadly, our Latino/a students in California are now using drugs at higher rates than any other teen ethnic group as reported in recent data at

Dog monitoring / deterrence systems are effective, and relatively inexpensive, and now we know they are associated with reduced drugs at our schools.

Our kids are, by far, the most precious things in our lives; thanks for all your efforts to keep them healthy.

» on 08.28.13 @ 03:25 PM

The best place to start with the dogs is the teacher’s lounge, then the administrative offices, and the staff’s cars.  If you took the dogs over to the homes of the teachers and administrators I think you would find more dope than you would get from the lockers.  Especially if their UCSB grads, studying for their piss test is about the only academic accomplishment for many.
It’s good to know the school board has money for drug sniffing dogs, but can’t buy paper and pencils. 

» on 08.28.13 @ 05:59 PM

Although the data shows a decrease, what percent of the decrease was caused by the DSDs? How many drug cases were directly attributed to the DSDs? Meaning they “sat” down in a classroom / parking lot/ or hallway and it led to a drug bust…

» on 08.28.13 @ 08:29 PM

Thanks for the question Mojo. My answer was very direct last night at the meeting. I would hope the answer is never. I would hope the dog would check every car in the parking lot and every room in the school and never make a “hit”. This would prove to me that we have done a good job keeping drugs off the campus and that is the goal. It is not and never has been a goal to “catch” anyone. The message is don’t bring drugs to school and if you don’t you have nothing to fear from the program. Students don’t want to be sitting next to someone high on drugs; teachers don’t deserve to have to teach students high on drugs; parents don’t want their child subjected to drug sales at the school. I’m happy to talk to anyone about this topic at any time. Call me at 687-7639 or email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  School Board Trustee.

» on 08.29.13 @ 05:59 PM

Thanks for the reply Mr. Heron and thank you for your service to the students and families of SBSD.

» on 08.30.13 @ 01:09 PM

Kudos to David Cash and the majority of our School Board members for their principled leadership on this matter.  Pot ruins kids brains, plain and simple.  One must wonder about the brains of the two board members who voted against this common sense initiative.

» on 09.07.13 @ 03:39 AM

The use of drug sniffing dogs in schools will certainly help in growing up better and healthy students. I hope the other schools would also try to get in the same line like this school.

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