School drug search raises controversy

January 21, 2009 4:36:29 PM PST
Controversy is brewing in Fort Bend County after drug dogs got a hit on a vehicle in the parking lot of a school. FBISD police say that hit was on a teacher's vehicle. The controversy is over why there was no search of that SUV and why the teacher was never even questioned by police at the time.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

A spokesperson for the Fort Bend Independent School District tells Eyewitness News they now realize they had probable cause to search a vehicle which a drug-sniffing dog indicated positively on last week at Kempner High School. At the time, the district says it saw no evidenced of workplace misconduct -- even though we've learned that in addition to the dog's alert, a police officer also smelled what he believed was marijuana. The vehicle though was never searched. That's something parents find baffling.

"There should be some kind of action taken," said parent Thaddeus Johnson. "So, they must be hiding something."

Sources say the officer was forced not to search the vehicle, even though he wanted to.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said, "The fact that they didn't do it in this case is somewhat perplexing."

The school district wouldn't tell us if someone gave a direct order not to search or if officers were ordered to stand down. According to state education code, a school district police chief answers to a school district uperintendent or an administrator who is assigned to oversee the department. The school district police are not autonomous. That's something Fort Bend County's district attorney struggles with.

DA John Healey explained, "They are the ones that are trained in what the laws are. They are the ones that have exercised discretion in the past as to how to enforce those laws. They are the ones that know the policies and procedures to go about enforcing the law."

School district officials tell us there was initial confusion over who owned the vehicle. They say the incident here has forced them to review policy and procedures related to searches.

FBISD Director of Communication Nancy Porter issued the following statement: "Given the ongoing legal debate concerning the validity of employee vehicle searches, the district will consider this issue as part of the review."

The teacher's vehicle was later searched, but no contraband was found. The teacher faces no charges and was not arrested.

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