City Councilman Loses Federal Appeal on School Drug Searches

Doug Burlison Sued School District Over Son's Class Drug Search

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A city councilman and his wife lost a federal appeals court ruling against their son's school district regarding a drug dog search at their son's high school in Springfield, Mo. Doug Burlison filed a lawsuit against Springfield Public Schools and the county sheriff after an April 2010 incident in which drug dogs from the Greene County Sheriff's Department conducted a random search of a science classroom in Central High School.

* A three-judge panel upheld a lower court's ruling that affirmed the right of the district to conduct such searches. Despite the decision, Burlison isn't convinced the search is constitutional, according to the Springfield News-Leader .

* In April 2010, Burlison's son was a freshman when two sheriff's deputies and a school police officer ordered students out of a science classroom. All backpacks and belongings were left in the room. The student alleged his backpack was completely zipped when he left it unattended. Nothing was found during the drug search.

* The student felt his backpack had been unzipped and searched, which is against the policy of the drug searches. Drug dogs only sniff around for drugs. Surveillance footage showed the search lasted around five minutes. Possessions are only to be searched if a dog makes two hits on the same personal property on school grounds.

* Burlison sued the district, superintendent and the Greene County sheriff. A lower court determined those people could not be held liable because none of those individuals actually performed the search. The courts determined policies already in place for drug searches are constitutional.

* School district attorney Ransom Ellis III told the News-Leader, "Certainly the district is extremely happy."

* Burlison countered to the media outlet, "I'm still of the opinion that what happened at the school is not constitutional and I'm not backing off that." The city councilman, who has divorced since the original lawsuit was filed, doesn't know what the next step is but he is consulting with the Rutherford Institute as to how to proceed.

* KYTV reveals the school district felt the federal appeals court "complimented the district's policies and procedures governing use of drug-detection dogs in its schools and methods used during the drug dog walk-through at Central High School."

* Burlison was first elected to the Springfield City Council as an at-large member in April 2007. He was re-elected four years later. He was married in 2004 and has eight children. Burlison is an assistant manager for a local business. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after attaining the rank of sergeant.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

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