The Liberty Central School District has announced that a police K9 search that took place on Nov. 17 at Liberty High School resulted in no illegal substances or explosives being found.
The district is working in partnership with the Village of Liberty Police Department, Fallsburg Police Department and the New York State Police to conduct free walk-throughs in order to ensure that our schools maintain a safe learning environment.
Canine units are brought to Liberty schools by state police as a proactive measure, not in response to any perceived increase in disruptive or dangerous behavior.
The district has conducted canine walk-throughs in the past. This most recent walk-through took place at 9:07 a.m., when the administrative staff of the Liberty Middle and High School ordered a hold in place for students and staff while canines and their handlers conducted a free air search of all academic lockers in the high school. The dogs are specifically trained to alert during a free air search on the scent of illegal drugs or explosives.
The canine teams do not search students during the walk-through. The students remained in class during the search, which lasted less than 30 minutes.
(Update – Nov. 17, 12:45 p.m.)
The district received a question about whether or not searches like these abuse a students’ Fourth Amendment right. We thought it was an excellent question and wanted to share the answer with the entire community.
Students in U.S. public schools have the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches; however, this right is diminished in a school environment because of the need to maintain a safe atmosphere where learning and teaching occurs.
Schools must strike a balance between a students’ right to privacy and the need to maintain school safety.
To that end, it’s important to note that this was an “open air sniff,” meaning that the canine would alert an officer to the presence of drugs or explosives. A search without probable cause would violate the Fourth Amendment.