The Dog Days of Chico

When former First Lady Nancy Reagan made "Just Say No" a popular American iconic phrase, she was stressing personal self-control and responsibility. When the members of the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees recently voted to approve $18,000 for the use of sniff dogs in Chico-area high schools, they sent a powerful message to all students of the CSUD and a powerful declaration to their teachers and parents that flatly contradicts the value of Nancy Reagan's advice.

Personal responsibility was now being transferred to a dog.

The message to the students was clear: The trustees want a "drug-free zone" at all schools. Who can argue with that? The declaration they sent to parents and teachers, however, was not so clear, and it was something we should all have, at the very least, an opportunity to argue about.

In an election-year decision by the trustees, teachers and students have now been criminalized by "blanket searches," while parents have been asked to accept the premise that their children are so out of control that the schools now have to step in and become a substitute parent for the real ones. Is this the new Chamber of Commerce benchmark for Chico's ideal quality of life?

As responsible parents and teachers of the Chico community, are we going to accept the mindset that says the only way to educate our children is to threaten them with violations of privacy? Does the Board of Trustees really think that Chico-area teachers and parents are also so out of control that they, as trustees, have to entrust a dog with the responsibilities that most caring parents and teachers in Chico already demonstrate every day?

What's more, doesn't the use of sniff dogs in our schools also say to our young people that we, their elders, have abandoned our responsibilities as adults, both as parents and teachers, to model the freedom from addiction for which we now, a priori, criminalize these same young people?

Are we going to simply accept a set of antennae with four legs (or by the same logic, a surveillance system of microphones and cameras) when there are plenty of responsible adults in Chico with two legs who already make it their business, as parents, to teach their children core values and, as teachers, to model the change they want to see their students make?

Why not use that $18,000 allocation to finance a "live" school program that demonstrates to young people the dangers of drug addiction and shows them that it is not only a criminal activity, but also a crisis of spiritual, social and cultural proportions. There is no dog in the world that can teach them that, but as responsible adults, we can.

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