Comment #5 posted by curendero on December 06, 2001 at 06:47:56 PT

off subject but..Drug dog busts teacher

Drug dog links pot to English teacher Instructor contradicts sheriff’s report, insists he’d confiscated marijuana


Santa Rosa, California, Dec. 6 – A drug-sniffing dog invited into a Geyserville High School classroom led sheriff’s deputies to a teacher’s briefcase and later to a small amount of pot, leaving the teacher’s future with the district uncertain.

The teacher, Keith Muelrath, will not be arrested or cited because only 1.1 grams of marijuana – enough for about two cigarettes – were found, Lt. Bruce Rochester said. After confiscating a small sandwich bag containing the pot, sheriff’s deputies left the incident with school officials to handle internally. The school board met behind closed doors Wednesday evening but adjourned without taking any action. Geyserville School Superintendent William Redman refused to discuss the incident, saying it was a personnel matter. He also refused to say whether Muelrath, an English teacher and girls softball coach, was still employed with the district.

However, Muelrath was not in the classroom this week and fellow teachers said he has been placed on paid leave. Muelrath, 45, said he was still employed. He said he had confiscated the marijuana from “someone,” but declined to be more specific. His lawyer, Michael Fiumara, also declining to be specific, said his client was being treated unfairly. “A teacher has a responsibility of retrieving narcotics from places and students and various other sources. That’s part of the education process, too,” Fiumara said. “He retrieved something. I’m not at liberty to say what it was.”

Deputies and a drug-sniffing dog arrived at the 120-student school Nov. 27 at the request of Principal Katherine Hadden because of concerns about drugs on campus, Rochester said. After Muelrath and a group of students were asked to leave a classroom, the dog alerted deputies to a student’s backpack, in which a film canister with marijuana residue was found, according to a deputy’s report on the incident.

That issue was also turned over to school officials. The dog then alerted deputies to Muelrath’s nylon briefcase under his desk. According to the report, Muelrath later admitted having marijuana in his bag months ago, but never on school grounds. Deputies then went to check a boys’ bathroom, which Muelrath had been seen entering after the classroom was cleared. En route to the bathroom, the dog pointed to a surplus desk in the hallway, in which deputies found the bag of marijuana, the report said. In a second interview, Muelrath admitted possessing the marijuana and said he used it recreationally, the report said. He told the deputy that he removed it from his bag and hid it inside the desk. Contacted at his home Tuesday, Muelrath said he never admitted the marijuana was his. Redman said the district has a no-tolerance policy toward drugs on campus.

A teacher could be dismissed or subjected to lesser discipline for a violation, he said. “We are proceeding to deal with the matter on a legal basis. We’re following procedure and policies,” he said. “On the advice of our attorney, I can’t comment further.” Muelrath’s lawyer, Fiumara, said the district’s policy was “zero common sense.” “In this case, Keith has not been charged or cited with anything,” he said. About two dozen people addressed the school board before it went into closed session Wednesday, many of them saying Muelrath had been punished enough and is too valuable to the school to be dismissed. “Education is the reason we meet here at Geyserville, but Keith Muelrath means so much more to us,” said Adrienne Cooper, a Geyserville senior. “To not support Mr. Muelrath is to not support the student body. We have no reason to doubt him.” Parent Julie Gilles said teachers, like parents, should set good examples. “I just ask that you take into consideration Mr. Mulerath’s value.

Don’t take an action that will eliminate one of the finest teachers at Geyserville high.” But some parents said Muelrath should be dismissed if he violated the school’s zero tolerance policy just as a student would be expelled. “The rules and the laws should be followed so it serves as an example to the parents and the students.