Thirty-three high school students in Anne Arundel County were arrested yesterday on charges of distributing cocaine, hashish, LSD and other drugs in what county police called the biggest school drug raid in Anne Arundel history.
The seven-month undercover investigation of student drug dealers at three high schools, carried out in cooperation with county school officials, also led police to arrest 14 adults from communities near the schools in northern Anne Arundel, about 16 miles south of Baltimore.
Police said the arrests of the largely "middle- to upper-middle class kids" were part of an ongoing campaign to rid schools of drug dealers. They denied that the magnitude of the arrests indicates the county's schools have an unusually serious drug problem.
"The schools were complaining; we just try to keep a handle on it," said Anne Arundel police spokesman Richard Molloy. "We don't have any more of it than any other county--and we have less of it now."
The largest number of students, 17, were arrested at Meade Senior High School, a large, modern facility on the sprawling grounds of the Army's Fort Meade that takes pride in the large number of graduates it sends to prestigious service academies and private colleges. Awards for accomplishments by Meade students, particularly in the fine and performing arts, line the walls of the spacious school lobby.
Some accused students passed through that lobby about 8 a.m. yesterday after school officials called them to the principal's office. They were then questioned by police and taken to police headquarters in a yellow school bus.
Five students at Old Mill High School in Glen Burnie were also arrested about the same time along with three at Glen Burnie High School. Ten students from other schools in the county were also arrested on the grounds of the three schools.
All of the students were charged as juveniles with distribution of dangerous controlled substances, then released in the custody of their parents pending court appearances. They face expulsion from school, authorities said, and must attend drug counseling sessions with their parents before being readmitted.
Police investigators started work in July, officials said. Once school started, they began posing as teen-aged drug users. They frequented school parking lots and areas inside the schools where students gathered to smoke cigarettes, and made 23 separate purchases at the schools of marijuana, cocaine, hashish, LSD, Quaaludes and ersatz capsules resembling illicit drugs known as "look-alikes".
Yesterday, there were no students congregating in the parking lots after Meade's 1,900 students were dismissed. Students had learned of the arrests earlier from principal Kenneth P. Lawson, who announced it over the loudspeaker. Some students--particularly student government leaders--said they were shocked.
"I just never knew anything like this was going on," said student government President Beth Hastings, 17. Her vice president, Brian Powell, added, "This is just not typical of Meade Senior High School. We're one of the best high schools in the county."
But other students said there has been a drug problem at Meade for some time. One youth said he saw dozens of multicolored "robins eggs"--a variety of amphetamine--scattered in a stairwell yesterday as word of the arrests spread through the school.
Drugs were readily available to interested students and would probably remain so, said three students who asked that their names not be used.
Most of the students arrested, the three agreed, were "heads"--long-haired, unkempt students often dressed in Army jackets and combat boots. But a few were mild-mannered bookworms, known as "poindexters," and preppies ("the ones who dress in classy jeans," one student said).
Several students complained about the long surveillance and tough interrogation of suspected drug users by school personnel.
"They pulled me out of class today and searched me," said one 10th grader. "They checked my shoes, my socks, my ears--everywhere."
The student said that some of the dealers were "dumb" to become so trusting of police agents and predicted they would get smarter. A second student said there would be recriminations against suspected student informers.
But the majority of Meade students believe drugs have no place in the school, principal Lawson said.
"I was surprised at how many students came up to me today and said, 'Mr Lawson, what you did was right,' " he said.