Knappa - The Knappa School District will hold an assembly this year on drug-sniffing dogs with school searches to follow, the school board decided Monday.

The board agreed to set up an assembly for the school year hoping it would "get students to think of whether they should bring drugs to school," Superintendent Rick Pass said.

"It's controversial, but we're here to help," he said. "We're not trying to catch anybody."

Board chairman Ben Bartlett said the decision was not in direct response to a known drug problem at the school but was partially prompted by the state's notoriously high rates of methamphetamine use.

"I don't think we have a problem, and the best thing we can do is keep it that way," Bartlett said. "I feel a responsibility on the board to encourage doing more."

Board member Rinda Johansen was also an advocate for searches.

"We're foolish to think it's not in our community," Johansen said. "It can be everywhere."

Pass noted school policy allows for unannounced random checks of lockers, which are school property.

The school has a policy allowing students to volunteer themselves for drug tests starting in the seventh grade. Once signed up for the program, "you're in it until you graduate," Pass said. The school does not punish students who fail the voluntary drug tests; the program is simply "helpful" in signaling problems, he said.

Despite the policy, the school has not carried out many drug tests since it established the program five years ago. A lack of funding led administrators to push the program to the side, Pass said, and the company that used to come to Knappa to administer the tests will no longer make the trip to the community.

"The program is in place," he said, "but there is no one to do the testing."

The school also has a policy for students involved in after-school activities. If those students are found in possession of drugs, they're suspended and subject to an assessment, Pass said.

Pass said there will be some hurdles to checking the school for drugs, such as being able to search lockers but not personal bags. But he's willing to address those obstacles in order to stem potential drug problems.

"We're sure not immune just because we're a small rural community," he said.