Baltimore County police charged one Loch Raven High School student with drug distribution early yesterday and forced 80 others who were passengers on charter buses loaded with alcohol to find other ways home from their senior prom.
Police were called to the prom at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn in Cockeysville by Carolyn J. Nelson, the president of the Association of Limousine Operators in Maryland, whose members have for the second year promised to keep liquor out of their limousines on prom nights.
Ms. Nelson called Baltimore County police to the inn's parking lot about 9:30 p.m. Friday after one of her drivers told her that some Loch Raven students he was chauffeuring talked about selling and using drugs, police said yesterday.
Police said they found a backpack with marijuana and a "pharmaceutical-sized" bottle of suspected Valium in the limo. They and school officials locked the doors to the ballroom and searched for the limo's four passengers. Police said the four were questioned, but only one was charged.
After police arrived and searched the limousine, several officer arrived and searched the two motor coaches with the help of drug-sniffing dogs. Inside, they found beer, liquor and champagne in coolers and backpacks.
The drivers of both buses -- from Woodlawn Motor Coach Inc. and Gunther's Charters -- told police they did not know their passengers had brought alcohol aboard. The drivers were not charged.
"It's really difficult to charge the driver if he says he didn't see the alcohol and we have no one else to say that he did," said E. Jay Miller, a Baltimore County police spokesman.
Officials of neither bus company could be reached for comment yesterday.
The arrested student faces disciplinary action, including expulsion, according to Loch Raven Principal G. Keith Harmeyer. He likely would receive his diploma but would be barred from attending graduation ceremonies, the principal said.
The incident was the second in a week in which police were called to a Baltimore area prom on a tip from Ms. Nelson that students were using the buses as traveling bars.
2nd prom to be disrupted
On May 20, 16 seniors at the Bryn Mawr School -- a prestigious north Baltimore girls' school -- were sent home from their prom at Towson State University after a bus they had hired was found littered with empty beer cans and bottles.
The Bryn Mawr students also faced school-related punishment, although all would be allowed to graduate, said Marlene David, Bryn Mawr's upper school director.
Ms. Nelson said yesterday she informed police because she was outraged that some association members lost business when students rejected the use of limousines in favor of the party buses.
"The kids got word that in the limos there's a prom promise, and we won't let them drink, so they opt for the party buses," she said.
More than 70 area limousine companies signed the no-alcohol pledges written by Michael M. Gimbel, director of Baltimore County's Office of Substance Abuse.
"No matter what we do, no matter how hard we work, a small percentage of kids are going to party and drink," Mr. Gimbel said yesterday. "Parents should not let their kids rent buses for the purpose of letting them drink."
On Friday, a group of Loch Raven students hired two buses to take them from the school's parking lot in Towson to the prom at the Hunt Valley Inn. But instead of going directly to theparty, the buses stopped at students' homes to load up on alcohol, Mr. Harmeyer said.
"I think it's a shame that students can't go one night without
drinking," Mr. Harmeyer said. "That they repudiate the message we've been sending is a darn shame."
'It was just so sad'
That the prom was tainted by drugs and alcohol was especially frustrating for Mary Ann Shockley, an organizer of the post-prom party and a member of the school's Parent, Teacher and Student Association.
The school last month was recognized as having the county's most effective drug and alcohol awareness program.
"We were sad to hear that this had happened," she said. "We know how hard we worked all year to provide this safe alternative to drinking. It was just so sad."
Despite the incident at the prom, the post-prom party at the clubhouse at Oregon Ridge Park was a success, Ms. Shockley said. More than 85 percent of the students who attended the prom made it to the after-hours party.