The Santa Barbara Unified School District renewed its contract for drug-detection dogs on its high school campuses this week, but the Board of Education isn’t unified in its support of the program.

Board member Monique Limón has opposed the contract with Interquest Drug Detection Canines since it was first approved for the 2012-13 school year, and board member Pedro Paz has voted against it every time the contract comes up for renewal.






The $13,500 contract for the 2015-16 school year was approved by the board 3-2, with Gayle Eidelson, Ed Heron and Kate Parker in favor.

High school principals in the district support the dogs on campus, Parker noted.

Eidelson said the dogs take some pressure off of teachers policing drugs, and help support the message that drugs and alcohol don’t belong on campus.

It’s a “sense of security for kids who want the campus to remain drug-free,” she said.

Nonaggressive drug-detection dogs make two half-day visits each month to Dos Pueblos, La Cuesta Continuation, San Marcos and Santa Barbara high schools, searching common area lockers, student parking lots, vacant classrooms and other school grounds.

The dogs can detect illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcoholic beverages and gunpowder, and they sit down if they alert to a substance, according to the district.

One critique of the program’s potential effectiveness is the fact that students are allowed to remove all of their belongings, including backpacks, from classrooms before the rooms are searched, due to the district’s legal concerns.

In the 2013-14 year, there wasn’t a single “hit” from drug dogs — every one of the 147 drug-related cases was reported or detected by someone other than the drug-detection contractor, according to the district.

District officials say the dogs are a deterrent for students to keep drugs and alcohol off campus, but opponents — including Limón and Paz — say the program does nothing for the issues of drug abuse and prevention.

“This is not the most appropriate use of money when you don’t have clear evidence that this is an effective strategy,” Paz said.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.