Scoobi’s job: Keeping St. John schools drug free

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / February 9, 2000

LAPLACE -The newest employee of St. John the Baptist Parish works forboth the school board and sheriff’s office, has four feet, yellow eyes, brown fur all over and a tendency to lick people’s faces.

He also loves to chase tennis balls.

Meet Scoobi, a 1-year-old chocolate labrador and expert drug sniffer.

Friday morning Scoobi was introduced to the public with a demonstration of his drug detection skills at East St. John High School. Because of a cooperative effort between the St. John Parish School Boardand the sheriff’s office, the school board purchased Scoobi several months ago. The sheriff’s office, under the auspices of the director of the K-9division, Lt. Chuck Bazile, then trained Scoobi and provides the dog’s housing,food and medical care. The school board will pay for all additional training,about $200 a year.

“This is a real cooperative effort,” said Bazile. “We get another dog in thesheriff’s office and the schools get a dog to use for themselves.”Even though Scoobi brings the K-9 contingent up to six dogs, the school board used to have trouble getting dogs to come sniff for drugs.

“Most of the drug-sniffing dogs work at night,” explained Alfred Donaldson, director of personnel for the St. John Parish School Board and liaisonbetween the school board and the sheriff’s office. “To get a dog to come to aschool you would have to wake up an officer and his dog or else get another dog off the street. That could take a lot of time.”Scoobi will be available for school drug searches all the time. The schoolboard plans to start a schedule of random drug checks at all public schools, including cars in the school parking lots and school buses.

Donaldson warned, “We are putting up signs that says everybody is subject to a drug search if they are on school property.”The school board is also allowing the K-9 division to use the schools at night for a training ground, which means drug searches will be going on all the time.

When Bazile let Scoobi out of his cage the dog bound around, sniffed everything, greeted people and jumped up to lick Bazile’s face.

Debra Schum, principal of East St. John High, had cleared the halls of allstudents for the demonstration. Bazile showed a small wooden box that hadthe smell of marijuana on it.

“Scoobi has a very sensitive nose,” said Bazile. “It is 100 times moresensitive than a human nose.

Another deputy took the wooden box and went to hide it in a locker inside the school.

Alfred Donaldson, Superintendent Chris Donaldson, Schum and Ann Laborde, director of personnel accountability, followed Bazile and Scoobi into the school.Scoobi was eager and wanted to run, but Bazile had the dog walk at hisside. They got to an intersection of halls and the deputy with the boxmotioned to Bazile the box is in one of a long line of lockers.

Bazile held up Scoobi’s leash, and they walked quickly down the lockers.

Scoobi was panting and sniffing while Bazile urged him on with words of encouragement.

Scoobi walked past the deputy then wheeled around and came back to a locker. He started whining and scratching at the locker. Bazile opened it andpulls out the wooden box.

“Good boy, good boy,” Bazile said as he petted Scoobi.

Bazile then took out a dog toy and threw it down the hall. With the speed oflight, Scoobi dashed after it, retrieved the toy and brought it back to Bazile, who threw it again.

The school board paid $4,500 for Scoobi, and Donaldson and Bazile said Scoobi is definitely worth the price.

“Scoobi will pay for himself three times over,” said Bazile, “because the dogs also find cash and we seize vehicles that have drugs and sell them.

Donaldson said, “The dog is really a great deterrent to keep drugs out of our schools.”Before Scoobi came to St. John Parish, he was initially trained at the U.S. K-9Unlimited school in Virginia.

“I think Scoobi will be a great deterrent,” said Schum, “If the kids know there will be random drug searches, there will be less drugs in school.”So all students, be warned. The faculty is watching, and Scoobi is sniffing.

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