Pubdate: Wed, 20 Dec 2006
Source: Ironwood Daily Globe (MI)
Copyright: 2006 Bliss Communication Inc.
Author: Eric Hjerstedt Sharp


IRONWOOD -- A cancellation of a proposed demonstation and locker 
search using drug dogs at Luther L. Wright High School has school 
officials fuming.

Citing a "no-tolerance" drug policy, Ironwood Schools administrators 
and board members want the district's schools drug free. At Monday 
night's school board meeting, members expressed anger when they heard 
the Dec. 1 demonstration had been canceled without any "apparent 
explanation" by Gogebic County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Adams.

However, Adams -- in a telephone interview after the meeting -- said 
he was opposed to "using the dogs for a blanket walk through 
students' lockers," and said he explained his reasoning in a March 
10, 2005, letter to Luther L. Wright Principal Tim Kolesar following 
a similar request last year. (Adams did not attend Monday's school 
board meeting).

After considerable discussion at the meeting, school board members 
voted to have superintendent Jim Rayner draft a letter to Adams, 
asking him for the procedure of how to place a drug dog in a school.

"If you stand in the halls long enough, you can even learn the names 
of the drug dealers," said school board president Steve Thomas. "We 
have to be proactive with this."

Thomas and other school board members also want Adams to give a 
response within a certain amount of time to their questions regarding 
the procedure for bringing the dogs to the school -- something the 
high school did for about five years, up until about two years ago 
when the Ironwood Public Safety Department no longer had a police dog 
- -- according to Kolesar, who said the school planned on using dogs 
from either the Gogebic County Sheriff's Department, the Hurley 
Police Department or the Michigan State Police for the Dec. 1 demonstration.

According to Adams, however, the issue is not so much about procedure 
but is veiled in complex legalities which impact on student's privacy rights.

"I told them: 'No, you don't do a blanket search. It does not set a 
good message to the students,'" Adams said. "The courts are already 
on line questioning the use of dogs in the schools at all."

"Blanket searches are not allowed."

Adams said the Hurley Police Department was asked to do the demo, and 
they thought it was authorized.

"When they found out it wasn't, they said 'No. They wouldn't do 
it,'"Adams added.

Adams said Michigan State Police officials also told him they would 
not allow their dogs to be used in the demonstration.

In his letter to Kolesar, Adams said: "...I do not want to develop 
factual scenarios that could curtail our use of drug dogs by the courts."

Adams did specify he would approve the use of dogs if (Kolesar) "has 
reasonable suspicion and targets the lockers that the suspicion leads 
directly to."

"The other approach I would feel comfortable with is doing a demo 
with the implied message that the real thing could be happening 
without advance notice," Adams said. "This could sufficiently disturb 
the local druggies to help keep drugs out of the school, without 
disturbing law abiding kids who should be learning that we respect 
them and their spaces."

"As your school policy indicates that the school would permit the use 
of police personnel and dogs to help in any investigation, I believe 
that our policy relates to a specific investigation based upon 
reasonable suspicion, not a blanket walk through of all lockers."

In an interview today, however, Kolesar disagreed and felt the school 
should be able to go through lockers under most circumstances, and 
still wants a demonstration to be conducted.

Kolesar readily admits there are drugs in the middle and high school, 
and even at the elementary school level. He points to policy in the 
student handbook which gives the administration the right to expel 
students for drugs even if law enforcement does not get involved.

"Those dogs could help us, if there are any drugs in our building," 
Kolesar said. "It's a matter of zero-tolerance. We don't ever want 
students to even think about drugs being in the school.

"This is a drug-free and weapon-free school. I tell students: 'There 
are consequences to your actions. I have a big sign in my office 
which reads: 'Choose wisely.'"
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MAP posted-by: Elaine