Parents protest return of suspects Two teens arrested on drug charges are back in school

January 29, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

About 50 parents and students vented their frustration about heroin problems in the Carroll County schools yesterday, squeezing into the lobby of the county state's attorney's office to air their gripes with Jerry F. Barnes, the county's chief prosecutor.

Linda Auerback, a Westminster mother and rally organizer, said parents were angry that two teen-agers were back in school yesterday after being arrested Monday on drug charges stemming from the death Jan. 9 of Liam A. O'Hara.

The 15-year-old Westminster High School student died of drug intoxication, probably from heroin, according to the state medical examiner's office.

"Help us," Auerback said. "We are crying out before another child is lost."

Surrounded by state and local police officials, Barnes told the group that the battle against drug abuse among teen-agers can only be dealt with by a "partnership of solution" by parents, school officials, law enforcement, legislators, judges, juvenile authorities and prosecutors.

Barnes explained that privacy laws do not allow him to speak specifically about a case involving juveniles. He said members of his staff attended Tuesday's detention hearing in juvenile court and could only recommend that the arrested teens -- a 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy -- be held at a detention center.

Both were released on home detention by a juvenile master.

"What happened was the decision of the juvenile master," Barnes said. "I can say that our office has filed a petition to waive the boy to adult court, but whether that happens will be decided by a judge of the Circuit Court."

Barnes said he has been meeting almost daily for two weeks with law enforcement officials, developing strategies to deal with the heroin problem.

Debra Kehs, a parent from Finksburg, said police are doing a good job, but the court system is failing.

Kehs said she had come to the rally to find out what is being done to curb drug use in the schools and what she should be looking for as a parent.

"Kids are selling drugs in the schools and threatening others not to give their names to police," Auerback said. "We hear everyone is working on the problem, but we're not seeing any results."

Auerback said students have to be shown that, "for first-time offenders, it can be their last time."

Kehs said she could not understand why students could be suspended for three to five days for smoking at school, but students suspected of dealing and using heroin are not suspended.

Salina Auerback, 17, who is Auerback's daughter and no longer attends Westminster High, said she has a friend who did not talk to police and who is afraid to go to school because of threats made by those who deal drugs.

"My friend thought it was the right thing to do, but isn't so sure now because the ones arrested were already back in school," she said.

Maj. William Arrington of the Maryland State Police told the group that he felt Barnes was being unfairly criticized.

"He's very aggressive in prosecuting drug dealers, and I can confirm we have been meeting to develop strategies to combat the problem," he said.

Arrington said the "heroin train is on the track, but by no means is it under control."

"Our intelligence sources say that heroin is cheaper than cocaine to buy on the street," he said.

Before the rally ended, Barnes promised to meet with representatives of the group about every two weeks to keep them informed.

Arrington said law enforcement decisions arising from a public forum on drugs held last month will be shared with parents after state police analysts meet Feb. 5 and map out strategy.

Linda Auerback said she hoped notification about that meeting would be sent home to parents through the schools, something that was not done before the December forum.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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