Five teenagers have been charged with trying to sell drugs to 11-year-old students who were walking to Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville.

Montgomery County police spokesman Harry Geehreng said five youths, ranging in age from 14 to 17, were arrested Wednesday by police after two girls reported they had been offered drugs and beer.

The teenagers, all from the Whiskey Bottom area in Howard County, were each charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, Geehreng said.

The youths' arrests marked the first time Montgomery police have charged someone under a Maryland statute enacted July 1, 1989, declaring all public and private schools drug-free zones.

The state law requires the posting of signs on school property and enhances the maximum penalties for violators who sell drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

However, because the suspects are juveniles, the law's tough penalties will not apply, officials said. Under the law, a first-time adult offender can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined up to $20,000 .

For additional offenses, sentences range from five to 40 years and fines of up to $40,000. Juveniles face penalties ranging from mandatory counseling to reform school.

In the last two years, several drug-free school zone cases have been reported in the Washington area, police said. Prince George's County officials said several students were charged in June with trying to sell drugs at Bowie High School in Largo.

In Virginia, which adopted a similar law last year, a Fairfax County police spokesman said there has been a handful of cases involving juveniles and adults who have been charged with selling drugs on or near school grounds.

The Montgomery County incident occurred about 8:25 a.m. Wednesday when two 11-year-old girls were approached by five youths standing near a 1979 Chevrolet parked next to the school's ballfields, said Banneker Middle School Principal Fred Lowenbach.

Lowenbach said the students told school officials about the encounter. While a police officer was interviewing students at the school at 14800 Perrywood Dr., the suspects' car was spotted circling the building several times, Lowenbach said.

Geehreng said police arrested the youths about 12:28 p.m. Police later found a small amount of marijuana in the car, he said. The teenagers, two of whom were 14, were released to the custody of their parents, Geehreng said.