Steamboat Springs A new officer soon will be sniffing around Steamboat Springs schools for the first time.
Steamboat Springs School District administrators plan to bring a drug dog into the hallways of the middle and high schools, likely within the next several months. Superintendent Shalee Cunningham opened a discussion at the Jan. 13 Steamboat Springs School Board meeting about the possibility of bringing a K-9 unit onto school grounds. The dog, from the Front Range, would come on an unannounced day to search hallways and parking lots.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said he and School Resource Officer Josh Carrell came up with the idea. Taulman said the goal is not to catch anyone with drugs, but to make sure students do not bring contraband to school. The knowledge that a dog is coming likely will be enough to stop students from bringing drugs, he said.
"They don't know when it's going to come, so that's the risk they're going to run bringing marijuana into the school. I'm very comfortable with the way we're doing this, letting everyone know," he said.
The dog will come sometime in the next several months, after building principals have a chance to speak with parent information committees at each building.
When informed about the plan, high school PIC Chairwoman Nancy Mucklow said she supports the idea of a drug dog in the school.
"As a parent, I'm not seeing a specific need, but I definitely trust the judgment of the principal and Josh Carrell," she said. "I think that a lot of things might be precluded because people have a heads-up, and they know it won't be tolerated."
Cunningham said the dogs are necessary because the number of expulsion hearings have escalated this year, primarily from students being caught with marijuana.
"We have twice the drug problem this year we did last year," she said.
The drug search will be operated in conjunction with the Steamboat Springs Police Department. School administrators will be in charge of searching the lockers. If drugs are found in a locker, the student will face expulsion from the school district and administrators will hand over any drugs found to the police department so the student may be charged.
Police Capt. Joel Rae said his office will help make the arrangements to bring the dog to Steamboat, but they will not be directly involved in the search. Only a few police officers and district administrators will know what day the dog is coming.
Steamboat Springs Middle School students also will hold an assembly for all students so they can see how the drug dog operates.
Cunningham said the dog will never come in direct contact with students when it is searching the school. Students will remain in classrooms while the dog goes through the school.
At the Jan. 13 meeting, board member John DeVincentis said he supports the idea of getting drugs out of the schools, but he was not happy with the idea of a dog. He said he was concerned about a "police mentality that's running rampant in our community," and questioned the efficacy of a drug dog.
Other School Board members supported bringing the dog into the schools after a discussion with parent groups. The board did not require a vote on the dog coming into the school because it is an administrative policy.