475 F.Supp. 1012 (N.D.Ind. 1979), H 79-233, Doe v. Renfrow

Docket Nº:H 79-233.
Citation:475 F.Supp. 1012
Party Name:Diane DOE, by Robert and Naomi Doe, her parents and next friends, Plaintiffs, v. Omer RENFROW, Superintendent of Highland Town School District, George Kurteff, Principal, Highland Senior High School, Harvey Keim, Principal of Highland Junior High School, John Guiden, Lorraine King, Lawrence Vasser, Burton Masepohl, John Terpstra, members of the Hig
Case Date:August 30, 1979
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Northern District of Indiana

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475 F.Supp. 1012 (N.D.Ind. 1979)

Diane DOE, by Robert and Naomi Doe, her parents and next friends, Plaintiffs,


Omer RENFROW, Superintendent of Highland Town School District, George Kurteff, Principal, Highland Senior High School, Harvey Keim, Principal of Highland Junior High School, John Guiden, Lorraine King, Lawrence Vasser, Burton Masepohl, John Terpstra, members of the Highland Town School District Board, Al Prendergast, Police Chief, Highland, Indiana, Patricia Little, Individual Intervenors, Defendants.

No. H 79-233.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

Aug. 30, 1979.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Myrna Hart, Valparaiso University School of Law, Valparaiso, Ind., David Goldberger, Joseph A. Morris, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs.

John P. McQuillan, Gary, Ind., Rhett L. Tauber, Merrillville, Ind., Leon R. Kaminski, Edward L. Volk, LaPorte, Ind., Charles H. Criss, Peru, Ind., David E. Mears, Charles L. Zandstra, Highland, Ind., Jerome H. Torshen, Stephen C. Leckar, Chicago, Ill., for defendants.


ALLEN SHARP, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This action was initiated in a complaint filed by several named plaintiffs protesting certain procedures conducted by officials of the Highland, Crown Point and Merrillville, Indiana school systems. Those named plaintiffs alleged that search activities conducted by certain school officials assisted by local police officers violated the plaintiffs' rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Subsequent to oral argument and upon the granting of a motion to dismiss certain party

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plaintiffs, made by plaintiffs' counsel, only Diane Doe and her parents as next friends remain as plaintiffs in this action. After extensive oral argument and presentation of evidence on June 7, 1979, this Court dismissed all but the above captioned defendants. Several hundred parents or patrons of the Highland School System were permitted to intervene as party defendants.

Plaintiff, Diane Doe, seeks to have the actions of the defendant school officials, the police chief of the Highland Police Department and the dog trainer to be declared violative of her constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The plaintiff further seeks to have the complained of activities of the named defendants permanently enjoined. Plaintiff brings her action pursuant to both sections 1983 and 1985 of Title 42 U.S.C. Also requested by plaintiff is a class certification of all persons who were enrolled at Highland High School and Highland Junior High School who were subject to the complained of activities or those who would be enrolled hereafter as such students in those institutions. Such a class would be certified pursuant to F.R.C.P. 23(b)(2). Presentation of any evidence of possible damages was reserved until this Court's determination on the above issues.

Jurisdiction in this matter for purposes of deciding any and all questions concerning plaintiffs' request for an injunction against the named defendants is pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ss 1343(3) and 1343(4).

This document shall constitute the Court's findings and conclusions of law as required by F.R.C.P. 52.

II. Facts

At issue in this law suit is the constitutional propriety of an investigation conducted by administrators of the Highland school system assisted by local police officers at the Junior and Senior High Schools in Highland, Indiana.

Highland, Indiana is a community consisting of approximately 30,000 residents located in the northwest corner of the state in Lake County, Indiana. The school community of Highland has, among several elementary schools, a Junior and Senior High School. Both these campuses are located on the same site. The school buildings are adjacent to one another and the approximately 2,780 students of both schools share common facilities located in the buildings.

Although the problem of illicit drug use within the schools was not a novel one in Highland before 1978, it became progressively more acute and more visible within the Senior and Junior High Schools during the 1978 academic year. Beginning in the fall of that year, concern over drug use within the school intensified as school officials recorded instances of drug use by students. From September 1978 to March 22, 1979, twenty-one instances were recorded when students were found in possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia or alcohol, or under the influence of drugs. More alarming to school officials was the fact that of those twenty-one instances, thirteen occurred within a twenty school day span just prior to the complained of activities. 1 Also, during this four week period, school administrators received daily reports from faculty, students and parents concerning the use of drugs within the Junior and Senior High Schools. 2 Out of these general reports, two students were identified as drug users, however, after investigation by school officials, no evidence of any drug use was found concerning the named students.

Throughout the year, and especially during this four week period, school officials, teachers and even members of the student

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body became concerned about the negative impact the use of drugs within the school was having on the educational environment. Classroom disruptions and the concomitant loss of learning time occurred as a result of disciplining those students found to have been using drugs in the school during the regular school hours. Moreover, there was a feeling, at least by some students including the plaintiff, that peer pressure existed in favor of using drugs while on campus. Not to use drugs was considered not to be "cool" by members of the student body who did use drugs. Because of the increasing use of drugs within the school, students, faculty and administrators suffered a loss of morale at both the Senior and Junior High School.

To combat what was perceived as an increasingly alarming drug problem within the school system, members of the Highland Town School District Board suggested the use of properly trained dogs to search for drugs within the school building. The use of drug detecting canine units was discussed at the March 6, 1979 meeting of the Board of the Highland Community School District and Superintendent of Schools, Omer Renfrow. Renfrow decided to use the trained dogs in a drug investigation and he arranged a second meeting for March 14, 1979. This meeting was attended by school administrators of the Senior and Junior High Schools and by members of the Highland Police Department. 3 Also present at this meeting was Patricia Little, a trainer of drug detecting canines. Little was asked to attend because she had had experience in the field of canine searches in schools. 4

At this meeting, the school administrators informed the police officers that they intended to conduct an investigation within the school buildings using canine units to detect and remove any narcotics or narcotic paraphernalia. To carry out this procedure, they requested the assistance of the Highland Police Department and of volunteer canine units experienced in drug detection. The objective was to rid the Junior and Senior High Schools of illicit drugs and discourage further drug use on the campuses. The school officials insisted, and the police agreed, that no criminal investigations would occur as a result of any evidence recovered during the school investigation. The school officials did intend, however, to bring any necessary disciplinary actions against students found in possession of contraband.

A. Activities Inside The School

On March 23, 1979, a school wide drug inspection was conducted by the administrators of the Highland School System with the assistance of the Highland Police Department and volunteer canine units trained in marijuana detection. The inspection occurred in both the Junior and Senior High School campuses and began during the first period class. Teachers were informed of the inspection that morning by means of a sealed note upon their classroom desks. Each classroom teacher was instructed to keep their students in the first period class and to have them perform their customary work. A canine team visited each classroom in both the Junior and Senior High School buildings. Each team consisted of a school administrator or teacher, a dog and its handler and a uniformed police officer. Four such teams were used in the Senior High School building and two were operating in the Junior High School rooms. Students were instructed to sit quietly in their seats with their hands and any purses to be placed upon their desk tops while the dog handler introduced the dog and led it up and down the desk aisles. The

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canine teams spent approximately five minutes in each room. No incidents of disruption occurred in the classrooms because of the presence of the dogs or the teams. The entire investigation lasted approximately two and one-half hours during which time students wishing to use the washrooms were allowed to leave the classroom with an escort of the same sex to the washroom door. The administrative purpose of the escort was to prevent the disposal of any drugs on the way to the washroom. No students were observed while in the washrooms. In order to keep disruptions to a minimum, late arrivals at the school were directed to a room other than their regular first period classroom. Uniformed police officers and school administrators were present in the halls during the entire investigation. Custodians were present near all locked doors to provide immediate exit if necessary. During the inspection, a dog alerted 5 to a particular student on approximately fifty occasions. After each alert, the...

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