TWO TEEN-AGERS, accused of drug-dealing in the heroin overdose death of a 15-year-old classmate last month, were back in Westminster High School as their cases proceed before a juvenile court master.
Angry parents flocked to the state's attorney's office to protest, bewildered by the decision of the court and the school system.
The two teen-agers were charged as juveniles, released on home detention and allowed back in the school. As juveniles, their names are not public and State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said he could not discuss specifics of a juvenile case. Mr. Barnes did say that he had recommended that the suspects be held in the county detention center, but that the juvenile court master decided otherwise. He is petitioning the Circuit Court to try the accused as adults. And Mr. Barnes pledged to keep parents regularly informed of the status of the cases.
Schools are routinely notified if a student is accused of a violent crime, and can take action to suspend or isolate the pupil. A student who is accused of smoking in school will be suspended promptly. The same for a pupil who brings a beeper into the classrooms.
The parent protesters believe that illegal, dangerous drug-dealing is at least as serious an offense, and should require school suspension.
One problem, a school official explained, is that schools are not notified as a matter of law about pupils arrested for drug activity off school grounds.
Del. Joseph M. Getty, R-Carroll, responded by drafting a bill that would require police to tell a school system when a student has been arrested on drug felony charges. School authorities would decide on appropriate action; the juvenile suspect may be placed in an alternative program, instead of suspension.
The Harford County delegation had already submitted a similar bill this session after a drug task force had identified as a serious problem the lack of school notification in such cases.
The death of a classmate is exceptionally troubling, and understandably so, to the student body of Westminster High. Common sense would dictate that suspects in the death be removed from that school until their cases are adjudicated. Legislation to remedy this lapse in school notification is needed.
Pub Date: 2/02/98