School drug policies differ

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The Moffat County Sheriff's Office drug dog, Czar, indicates the presence of narcotics in a car door during training with his handler, Sgt. Courtland Folks at the Moffat County Sheriff's Office in Craig on Thursday. Folks uses Czar to sweep a variety of locations across northwest Colorado, including local high schools such as Moffat County and Hayden.

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The Moffat County Sheriff's Office drug dog, Czar, indicates the presence of narcotics in a car door during training with his handler, Sgt. Courtland Folks, at the Moffat County Sheriff's Office in Craig on Thursday.

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Sgt. Courtland Folks uses his dog, Czar, to search for narcotics in various locations in northwest Colorado. Recently, they have been called into service to sweep local high schools, including Moffat County and Hayden.

— Czar's bark commands attention. His keen sense of smell has failed him only once as a state-certified, drug-sniffing dog, and it has secured him a job uncovering narcotics for the Moffat County Sheriff's Office.

On March 7, Czar, a chocolate Labrador retriever, and his handler, Moffat County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Courtland Folks, made a special trip across county lines to roam Hayden High School's hallways and parking lots. The message they sent was clear - drug use and possession will not be tolerated at the school.

It was Czar's first trip to a Routt County school, and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that it was the Hayden School District that invited him and Folks.

Hayden has arguably the most proactive drug policies of any Routt County school district. But district officials in Hayden, Steamboat Springs and South Routt agreed there aren't right policies or wrong policies. Rather, they said, each district has adopted a drug policy that is philosophically in line with the beliefs of the district and its community.

Hayden High School conducts random drug searches, including visits from drug-sniffing dogs. It also reserves the right to randomly drug test its students.

Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel said the March 7 visit from Czar was in line with the school's random drug testing policy, and that it served as a good educational experience.

"My main reason for bringing the dog in was to use him as a tool for a learning experience," he said. "We wanted the kids to know that while we're not going after anyone, we are looking."

Zero tolerance

Steamboat Springs High School is the only school in the county to maintain a "zero tolerance" policy in regards to drugs, officials said.

Superintendent Donna Howell said students are not to bring any tobacco, alcohol or illegal drug onto school grounds, and they face stiff punishment if they violate that policy.

Drug-sniffing dogs have never entered the high school, she said.

"As a district we have not discussed random drug searches such as a dog," she said. "We would not put anything like in place without community input."

In 2003, when Hayden's current drug policy was enacted, parents expressed concern that students' civil liberties were being compromised and that the policy created an "us versus them" feeling by requiring any student who leaves campus to submit to random drug testing.

Zabel, who was not the principal at the time the policy was instituted, said the policy has served the school well.

"It was a philosophical decision based on the high rate of students coming to school under the influence," he said. "We feel like this policy does a good job. The biggest thing is that we're not out to get anyone or trying to catch and string anyone up. We're trying to be proactive by letting our students know we support them but that certain behavior is not tolerated."

Steamboat Springs High School Assistant Principal Kevin Taulman said he and Principal Mike Knezevich came from school districts that used random drug testing, and that while they have discussed whether to implement random drug testing, the school would not implement anything without strong support from the community.

"I think using drug dogs is just a tool, and I hope any administrator would tell you that it's purely a preventative measure," Taulman said. "There's no way I'd ever move forward with something like that without tremendous support from the (Steamboat Springs School Board) and the community."

If the discussion ever did surface, parents and community members likely would come out against such a policy citing invasion of privacy and civil liberty issues, he said.

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, who campaigned on a platform of protecting civil liberties and constitutional rights, agreed.

"Without having reason or probable cause, I probably wouldn't bring a dog in to indiscriminately sniff lockers in Routt County schools or any other public institution," he said. "That's not what the Routt County Sheriff's Office is about. As I've said before, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right."

Wall said he has not yet met with area school administrators in the 2 1/2 months since he became sheriff. He said he's eager to discuss his ideas for drug enforcement and educational opportunities in schools.

"I think in-depth drug education is part of the solution," he said. "My hope is that administrators and parents will bring their concerns to me and allow my office to investigate those concerns without using a blanket technique like drug-sniffing dogs."

Education = enforcement

School officials, medical professionals and law enforcement officers alike agree that drug education is key to teaching children and teenagers about the dangers and risks of using drugs and alcohol.

Garrett Wiggins, task force commander for the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotic Enforcement Team, said the days of D.A.R.E. - Drug Abuse Resistance Education - are over, and that schools and law enforcement agencies are taking more aggressive approaches to drug education.

"We know for a fact we do have drugs in most of our high schools and that our students do experience drug-related problems," he said. "It's something we should all be concerned about."

Wiggins said schools bolstering strong educational programs and making school resource officers available to students help deter some students from using drugs.

Dr. Dan Smilkstein, who helped develop the SteamboatCares survey at Steamboat Springs High School, said he always is amazed at how nonchalant students are about their drug use. The SteamboatCares survey asks students to be candid about their social behavior. The surveys are filled out anonymously.

"The biggest surprise to me is how matter-of-fact (the students) are about their behavior," he said. "It is absolutely acceptable to them. It's so commonplace."

Smilkstein said while drugs are a huge issue in schools, alcohol always will be the No. 1 substance abused by teens.

"There's a national trend that kids are using all the drugs that have always been around, but at a much younger age," he said.

While school officials can implement policy and enforce punishment for using or possessing drugs, most teens use drugs during the day away from campus and then return to school, he said.

"That's what prompted our policy," Zabel said. "We were having some serious issues with students leaving our campus and coming back under the influence," he said.

Czar's visit to Hayden High School may have been his first, but it won't be his last, Zabel added.

"We will definitely do follow up," he said. "I was very satisfied. I think it opened up a good experience for us to talk to our kids and get the word out."

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Unbelievable.

Enact a zero tolerance policy and then NEVER bring in a drug dog to enforce it?

You might as well sell marijuana in the cafeteria.

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inmate2007 7 years, 1 month ago

Don't ask, don't Tell

We all know how well that works, but it does put a happy face on the situation.

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Queenie 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Hayden School District for being proactive and firm. It's sad that we had to team up with an agency outside of our county, but hey....whatever works.

How do we go about moving the county line east to Milner??? Then Steamboat can have their Sheriff and their civil liberties and their laughable zero tolerance policy all to themselves. West of Steamboat we will live in the real world and deal with all it has to offer.

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katrinkakelly 7 years, 1 month ago

Meth must be in Hayden if the town wants to be part of Moffatt County.

Who trained the dog and is it certified?

The recent church skit was scarry for our kids and I think a dog drug raid in school would be as well!

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jlkar 7 years, 1 month ago

Katrinakakelly, Did you read the article? "His keen sense of smell has failed him only once as a state-certified, drug-sniffing dog..." The same folks that train our police force, do you need names and numbers? A "dog drug raid" is not really what is being proposed here. A dog sniffing for drugs is. And that dog will be with a police officer, the same ones that come into our schools and talk to kids about drugs. This just means that the people of Routt county would like to be pro-active about where our dollars are going, especially when dealing with the future's education. The crazy "scarry" church skit doesn't really have anything to do with this. What is scary to me is your factless, ugly claims about Meth being in Hayden. This doesn't really say much for your education while you're wasting time worrying about the education of a drug-sniffing dog instead of that of our children.

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whyquestion 7 years, 1 month ago

does soroco have a drug policy???? why wasn't the supt. and school board president contacted???? was the pilot reporter afraid she might hear the truth about her friend cargos' utopia??????why does'nt soroco have a drug policy????or does oc need consumers for its product??????

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katrinkakelly 7 years, 1 month ago

Jlkar, please make comments about the article and try not bash each others opinions. That in itself would say alot about your EDUCATION! Or maybe you could move to Moffatt County?

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Ain't nothin' to worry about no drug dogs in the school.

Ol' "Hash" will send them young'uns home with a map to a medical marijuana user's house so they can buy his extra production and replace their stash without never missing a mellow.

This is COLORADO. We don't have to worry about the rest of the country. If anybody asks if we have drug problems, just tell them, "Oh, you want the SQUARE state" and point to Wyoming.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 1 month ago

kkkelly....it's okay for you to bash someone else and their comments but you don't want anyone speaking against you or yours...correct? A couple of your comments... "Davinci is the "flake" on this forum who has done too much "snow"! Go away, irritant and take your psychobabble with you!... "Let the Sheriff do his job and stop your backwoods bantering."..."How can you say Steamboat is going to hell? You obviously have not been in this county for over thirty years like myself or you would know better than to say that." ...These are comments you made on other forums, about other people and their opinions, just like the comment above, after you made your point you had to get a little barb in there about (and to) Jlkar, maybe you should practice what you preach!!

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

OOooooooo...katrinakelly just got pwned!!!! (if you don't know what that means, don't ask.)

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katrinkakelly 7 years, 1 month ago

Whatever! Seems like whomever wants to post their point of view on this forum gets the axe from a very limited few, small minded jerks. What is the real agenda here? The Sheriff.

Davinci freinds, Most of my comments were made in response to your psychobabble. Where did you all want to move the county line to? CHOP! CHOP!

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Hey, it's a victimless crime, isn't it?

SHREVEPORT, La. - A 20-year-old Shreveport woman has been arrested after her first-grade son brought a rock of crack cocaine to school for show-and-tell.

Police were especially disturbed by the child's understanding of crack cocaine. They said he seemed so accustomed to the highly addictive drug that he thought there was nothing wrong with bringing it to school.

Police did not release the name of the school, saying they are still investigating.

Lachristie Thomas was booked on a charge of improper child supervision, a misdemeanor.

Police say the six-year-old was placed in foster care.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

So Kelly- what agenda did your disparaging remarks towards others spring from? JQ called you out doing the same thing you berated another poster about. Can you prove JQ's quotes wrong, especially after just calling "a very limited few, small minded jerks..."

"...try not to bash each others opinions..." LOL!!

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jlkar 7 years, 1 month ago

I was expressing praise for the drug sniffing dog featured in the article. The only reason I commented on your post was because you simply asked, "Who trained the dog and is it certified"? Remember? And thanks for the suggestion about moving to Moffat County, that fit in with the article nicely. I will consider it. One last thing, if you are concerned with people not "bashing" opinions on the article, maybe you should read the article, think, think again, and then say something that makes sense... since I still can't find where the article mentioned Hayden becoming part of Moffat Co., or the skit. But again, great question about the dog.

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