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K-9 training finds few drugs

Superior Police Officer Todd Maas gets his dog, Blek, ready to enter the Superior High School on Monday afternoon for a K-9 training exercise. At least seven other agencies participated in the exercises at the high school and Superior Middle School. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Northwest Wisconsin K-9 units converged on Superior High School and Superior Middle School Monday for training. The dogs and their handlers walked through both buildings, checking lockers for drugs, according to Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor.

Although nothing was found at the high school, dogs "hit" on one of the lockers at the middle school, according to Capt. Matt Markon of the Superior Police Department. Suspected marijuana shake - an extremely small amount of substance similar to pepper flakes - was found in a backpack in the locker. It tested positive for marijuana, according to Markon.

"The dogs are sensitive enough they can detect that small amount of odor," he said.

Although the police department will conduct some follow up on the incident, Markon said, no charges are expected to be filed against the student. Neither SMS Principal Rick Flaherty nor Superior School District Superintendent Jana Stevens were available to comment on whether the youth faces any school consequences.

Superior Police do a sweep at SHS once every school year, La Lor said. With so many lockers to check, it helps to involve other agencies. Such exercises have been "hit and miss" in the past, La Lor said. At times, small amounts of marijuana have been found.

"What it tells us is there are very few drugs in school," said SHS Principal Kent Bergum. But, he said, the sweeps still serve a purpose by letting students know teachers and law enforcement officers are "paying attention."

La Lor said such K-9 drug sweeps have been conducted before at SMS, but there is a heightened sense of awareness following a December incident when a middle school student was allegedly selling cocaine on a school bus. The school sweeps were not in response to that incident, but rather a regular quarterly training for area K-9 units.

"The schools were a good facility to give the dogs the training they needed," Markon said.

The afternoon search also gave the schools a chance to practice lock down procedures. At SHS, students and staff went into a hold and lock down drill while the dogs were working. Students had to stay out of the halls and doors were locked, but teachers could keep teaching. The school stages lock down drills two to four times a school year.

"I think it's really important," Bergum said. "You don't want to pretend nothing could happen."

School safety centers on relationships, the principal said.

"We know the best defense we have is a school where students will talk to adults," Bergum said.

Working closely with police also helps strengthen school safety, he said.

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