Has school drug enforcement gone too far? A Savannah mother thinks so after her
16-year-old son got suspended. Police say their drug dog smelled marijuana and
cocaine on his backpack. It all started with a routine drug check at Jenkins
High School yesterday morning. It ended with student Renard Powers getting
suspended, based only on a smell. His mother says he is a victim of an
overzealous school drug policy.
Renard is your typical 16-year-old. A "B" student, he’s in school
chorus, and spends most of his free time on his computer. When Jenkins High
campus police called his name for a random drug check, he didn’t think twice.
"They searched our classroom, lined us up outside in the hallway, and had
us empty our pockets," he recalled.
Then, the police dog started sniffing his backpack. "They told me my bag
smelled like marijuana and cocaine," Renard said.
"This was something that was just bogus," said Renard’s mom, Lanore
Smith. She says her son has never had a problem in school. "They can check
his record. He is a good kid."
When police searched Renard’s bag, they found some books and papers, all the
normal stuff a kid who goes to school would have. They did not find any drugs
but suspended Renard and charged him with passive participation. The school
calls it part of its zero-tolerance policy. "Students and parents need to
understand that," said school board spokesman James Harvey.
past the graveyard.
Harvey says the schools trust the judgment of the police and school
administrators. "They are the professionals, doing this a long time,"
he said. "These are people we trust."
why don’t these trustworthy people realize that the backpack could have become
contaminated with scent of drugs, if
accurately detected by the dog, entirely innocently? The student’s backpack
wasn’t continuously under his control. Another student, or even
an administrator could have accidentally or intentionally exposed the
backpack to the scent of drugs. Or the scent may have been picked up at an
out-of-school event. Who knows?
"They’re professionals," agreed Smith, "but I’ve seen those dogs
screw up, lots of times."
She and Renard hope the school will reevaluate its decision. "I don’t want
it following him," she said. "He wants to go to college. He wants to
"I’m just confused, cause I’m getting accused of something I didn’t
do," said Renard.
because system needs trump student needs. If the district lets you off then it
will have to fight over whether other students should be let off, too. It
doesn’t have time for justice or fairness. It’s exactly this kind of thing that
makes students think about getting revenge.
The first thing Renard says he will be doing is getting a new backpack. His mom
plans on fighting the suspension, even if it means getting a lawyer. She hopes
to meet with school officials today to clear Renard’s name and record.