Canadian border incident delays Howard ski trip

February 17, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes and Tricia Bishop | Gus G. Sentementes and Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Twelve buses filled with Howard County high school students and bound for Canada on a ski trip were detained for up to eight hours at the border last week during a search by Canadian officials that turned up dozens of fake IDs, marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms, and drug paraphernalia, according to the trip organizer, parents and some of the children.

Although not a sanctioned school event, it was another embarrassment for Howard students and schools after a string of incidents since August that included 12 teens being cited for underage drinking at a dance; two girls making national headlines with a kiss; allegations of improper grade changing by top education officials; and a high school forfeiting its games because of ineligible players in various sports.

Canadian border authorities confiscated 46 fakes IDs, three ounces of marijuana, and a small quantity of illegal mushrooms, said Daniel M. Callahan, director of Springfield, Va.-based Ski Travel Unlimited, which has conducted ski trips since 1981.

"I would say it's the worst border crossing we ever had," Callahan said last night in a telephone interview. "And it's certainly the worst in terms of the 46 fake IDs that were confiscated. We never had anything like that before."

Callahan said that none of the 592 students heading to Canada - the vast majority of them from Howard - was arrested, although his staff members urged the authorities to arrest some and have their parents deal with the consequences while the buses took the rest to their destination in Quebec.

Canadian authorities could not be reached for comment.

Callahan said that students and parents had signed agreements that made them aware of stiff penalties - such as expulsions - that would result from drug or alcohol violations. Chaperones warned students about carrying drugs and alcohol before they got on buses, and looked inside their luggage and carry-ons, Callahan said. A total 31 staff members were on the buses, he said.

The buses left Thursday afternoon from two sites in Columbia and were supposed to arrive early Friday.

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