5 Centennial students face drug charges

Police recover marijuana, pills, knife, razor blade

School officer leads probe

Girl, four boys could be expelled or suspended

February 14, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Five students at Centennial High School are facing various drug and weapons charges - and possible expulsions - after a police officer and a school administrator discovered marijuana, prescription pills, a small knife and a razor blade on them yesterday.

The school was in lockdown from 10:45 a.m. until just before 1 p.m. while police questioned suspects and made arrests, said Principal Lynda Mitic. Students remained in their third-period classes during that time, she said.

The search began after a teacher sent a 15-year-old girl to the health office yesterday morning because she seemed lethargic, Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

"It was a snowball effect," Llewellyn said. "She gave some information that led to one person; that person gave information that led to another and so on."

Police will not release the names of the arrested students because of their ages.

After speaking with the girl, county police Officer Victor Broccolino, Centennial's school resource officer, began an investigation that unfolded over several hours, Llewellyn said.

Police arrested the girl, along with four boys, ages 14, 15, 16 and 17, Llewellyn said.

Three, including one who was carrying 30 small bags of marijuana, were charged with distribution, Llewellyn said.

Another student had "a large quantity" of prescription pills and appeared to have been dealing them to other students, Llewellyn said. She said officers did not know what kind of pills they were and could not specify the quantity.

"It is critical to us to make sure we remove this element from the school environment," Mitic said. "We must be vigilant to find assistance for students whose lives are being blighted by drugs."

The students charged with distribution could face expulsion. School district policy on drug distribution calls for a minimum suspension of 45 days.

For possession, a student could be expelled between five and 30 days.

Students are required to participate in a licensed counseling program before returning to school. Weapons infractions vary by case, Mitic said.

"The school tries to send a very strong message," Mitic said. "The repercussions have an obvious impact on the educational process."

Along with the penalties they face from the school system, the students also face possible adjudication in the juvenile justice system.

Centennial PTA President Angela Fowler-Young said she does not believe Centennial has a pervasive drug problem, although "drugs are an issue with kids in general."

School district spokeswoman Patti Caplan said there have been other drug arrests in Howard County schools, but she could not recall the last time an arrest occurred at Centennial High School.

School resource officers such as Broccolino were deployed in county high schools in 1999 to help with investigations and crime prevention.

"They are first responders in any situation," Llewellyn said. "When the student in this case started providing information, the officer could immediately begin investigating."

Llewellyn said school drug arrests usually stem from random drug sweeps rather than a tip. Drug-sniffing dogs are occasionally brought to school parking lots and hallways to uncover drugs, Llewellyn said.

Teachers will address the arrests today during second-period classes, Mitic said. The discussion will include a schoolwide announcement over the public address system, she said.

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