A push by principals for the drug-sniffing canines will go before the school board on Jan. 10 and could be approved before the end of next month. If the plan gets the go-ahead, dogs would be brought onto the three campuses three to five times a semester.
"We would get together with the administration before the year or before the semester. It's not going to be just random," police Officer Ryan Dawson told a group of Amador Valley High School parents at a recent meeting. "The dogs will not interact with the students."
The parking lots and gym lockers -- the only places where kids can lock their belongings -- would be searched by the canines, but students would be out of those areas when the dogs are brought in, Dawson said.
"It's just going to go through those two areas," he said. "Very often students keep stolen property or drugs in their cars or in their gym lockers."
Most of the 22 parents who attended the informational meeting on Dec. 15 agreed with the plan.
Kevin Johnson, the school district's senior director of pupil services, said the goal is to keep the campuses drug free.
"We want them to be a place for kids to come where they can feel safe," he said. He pointed to a recent forum on drug and alcohol use in schools, where one student said a rumor that drug dogs were coming was enough to keep drugs off the Amador campus for a time.
"The kids aren't going to know when it's happening," said Officer Craig Hobizal.
The searches aren't going to be limited to student parking. Teacher parking areas would be part of the canine search as well.
"Our campus has to be drug free, and that includes the adults," Johnson said.
Amador was the last of the district's three high schools to have an informational meeting with parents. That came the day after a major drug bust on school grounds, when three males, one 16 and two 17, were arrested on charges of possession of drugs for sale.
Lt. Jeff Bretzing said Hobizal received information about a student selling drugs.
"He investigated and contacted the student and ended up arresting three separate students, all for drug possession for sale charges on campus," Bretzing said. "They were arrested while on campus."
The drugs included 50 doses of LSD, 1.6 grams of ecstasy, five ounces of mushrooms and just under an ounce of marijuana, Bretzing said. In addition, he said one of the three had a folding knife in his pocket.
"Two were released to their parents, one was booked at Juvenile Hall," Bretzing said.
"Three arrests on campus on the same day is not normal," he added. "We are working hard to try to create a drug-free campus, which is one reason we have a school resource officer. We know there are drugs on campus and we are working with school administrators."
"An anonymous tip led to the arrest," Principal Jim Hansen said. "This particular person set up an anonymous email account."
In addition, a teacher from Foothill High School was arrested Oct. 26 on drug charges. Stephanie Deffner, 32, was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
The dogs will be able to smell 18 illegal substances, including cocaine, marijuana and opiates, including Oxycontin and heroin.
While most of those at the Amador meeting seemed in favor of the idea, one, the husband of school board member Jamie Hintzke brought up concerns, although Hintzke said she didn't necessarily agree.
"I just see this thing as fraught with potential problems," said Jeff Hintzke. "I envision kids with enemies hiding pot in a gym locker or a car. Maybe it's my joint that I was smoking in the car last night and my kid drove the car to school that day."
He also worried that others would know if a student's car was searched, potentially damaging his or her reputation.
Getting caught with drugs isn't the end of a student's high school career. A single possession bust would land her or him a five-day suspension, which would drop to three days if that student agrees to enter a drug diversion program. A second arrest would be a five-day suspension, with the recommendation for expulsion, as would an arrest for a large quantity or if a weapon were found as well.