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Atlantic Board of Ed approves SRO agreement & k-9 search


July 12th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Community School District’s Board of Education, Tuesday night, approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the district’s School Resource Officer (SRO), Corey Larsen. Larsen is a K-9 Deputy with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, and this upcoming school year will be his third as SRO.  The only change to his contract was with regard to language that recognizes the reorganized CAM Community School District. The prior agreement had indicated C & M and Anita were separate entities.

During his report to the board, Larsen asked for and received permission to conduct an unannounced search of students’ lockers and other school areas in the high school and Middle School with his K-9 partner Maylo, and one or two other K-9 units. Larsen requested the search because he says, there were some problems this past year with drugs in the high school. He says High School Principal Heather McKay has agreed to the search sometime within the first two-weeks of school.

McKay says the faculty has requested the district take a similar course of action over the past five- or six-years because of the proliferation of drugs and other, illegal activities. Larsen says while a search is conducted, the school is typically on a “lockdown” status. The kids will remain in their classrooms and their book bags left in the hallways during the search. The k-9 unit will search various parts of the school, including the teacher’s lounge, at the administration’s discretion. Larsen said the search can also include the bathrooms, because that’s where a lot of the drug dealing takes place.  A search of vehicles in the parking lot would be conducted separately, and on a different day.

McKay says an attorney she’s spoken with has suggested the district practice a “lockdown” situation, regardless of the scenario, because it familiarizes both the students and faculty on how they should react, and what to expect.  Deputy Larsen says the search typically takes about an hour. McKay says the last time a full search was conducted by a k-9 unit was about 12-years ago, during the 1999-2000 school year.

Larsen says there is a protocol that is followed, if contraband is found by the dogs. He says school officials will search the students’ book bag and the student, not the K-9 officer. That’s because of a Supreme Court decision.  If someone is found to have drugs or other contraband in their possession or on their person, a citation may be issued to the student, or, they may be placed under arrest. The contraband will be seized, and the parents notified.

The student and their belongings will be brought into the Principal’s Office and searched by school officials. That too, is because of an incident in the Harlan Community School District, whereby a Reserve Officer assisted with the search of a student. The judge threw the case out, because that officer was involved in the search.

Larsen reported to the board also, that he will continue to work on  student truancy issues. He says he’s visited two-or three-homes this past year multiple times, because a student missed school.  He says for the upcoming school year, if he has to visit a home more than twice, the parents and student will go to court, rather than receive a citiation for each offense. He says also an anonymous tip line he instituted when he first became the SRO, has resulted in 20 Minor in Possession citations. Larsen says students simply call or text their tip to either himself, or Sheriff Darby McLaren. They typically provide  the names of the persons involved in parties, and information on adults involved, or who may be drinking and driving.