Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2006
Source: Telluride Watch (CO)
Copyright: 2006 The Telluride Watch
Author: Marta Tarbell
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Contraband-sniffing Canine Sweeps School

The first-ever canine search for narcotics at Telluride Middle/High 
School takes place this afternoon.

On Friday, Nov. 10, school officials called the Telluride Marshal's 
Office to report that a substance appearing to be cocaine had been 
found in a boys' bathroom.

"The one good part of this whole story," said Telluride Schools 
Superintendent Mary Rubadeau, "is that a student did alert us" to the 
presence of what was determined by officers conducting a field test 
to be cocaine.

"We just feel so good about that - and that the kids in this school 
know where the bottom line is. They want to have a safe and drug-free 
school, too."

Telluride Chief Marshal Jim Kolar said an officer's sample test "did 
test presumptive-positive for cocaine;" he went on to explain that 
presumptive-positive "is the technical term for a field test."

After its Tuesday meeting, the Telluride R-1 School Board issued a 
statement reporting it had just "passed a regulation augmenting the 
district's policy on student searches, which permits the use of a 
canine to detect contraband."

San Miguel County Sheriff's Deputy Sham Foster, handler of the 
contraband-sniffing canine, will take the dog "along the lockers" in 
TM/HS hallways, Rubadeau explained. "If the dog smells anything, she 
alerts - she will sit down in front of the locker. Then we know who 
the lockers are assigned to and we will ask the student to open the 
locker for us."

The Telluride Marshals Office, which does not have a 
narcotics-detecting canine, asked the sheriff's office if Deputy 
Foster could take charge of "sweeping" the school.

Asked if the dog could have detected what Kolar described as "just a 
trace" amount of cocaine found Friday - too small a sample, in fact, 
to be sent out for laboratory testing - Rubadeau said, "She 
definitely would have found it."

The dog will return after today's initial search, Rubadeau added, "on 
a purely random basis, at least once a month," to sweep lockers and 
anyplace "that's unoccupied by students, basically, when the kids are 
in class," and check as well temporarily abandoned items "that 
someone isn't holding onto."

Referring to narcotics use on school property, Rubadeau pronounced 
herself confident that "a very small group of kids engages in this behavior."

Although "it is unfortunate to take such steps" as importing police 
dogs "for such a small group," she added, "it is important to send a 
loud and clear message that there is no tolerance for drugs in the school.

"I know of several schools that have used this in the past," she 
added, referring to bringing in the narcotics-detecting police dog, 
"and while it's not that unusual, it isn't a step we've taken before."

Teachers met with students Thursday "right at the beginning of 
school," Rubadeau said, each with "a script to read to the kids so 
every student had the same information about what happened, when it 
happened, how it happened and what the follow-up was going to be."

In an official statement, Rubadeau said, "The safety of our students 
is the highest priority for the district. We believe that only a 
small number of students are involved with cocaine; however, the 
presence of drugs in the school will not be tolerated. We will 
implement the new regulation using judgment and respect. The bottom 
line is that our students, parents and community expect and deserve a 
safe and drug-free environment. The random searches with the canine 
will protect the rights of all students to enjoy a safe school."