, 2014

Student’s arrest raises questions
in drug search procedures at LHS

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—The arrest of a student for misdemeanor possession of marijuana after a routine drug sweep at Lancaster High School February 13 resulted in a controversy involving the school system’s central office, the county sheriff’s department and the high school principal.

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Fueling the controversy was an email from the student’s family suggesting the search did not follow proper legal procedures and the student’s adamant denial,which led the family to believe the 17-year-old was set up by school authorities and law enforcement.

According to the deputies involved, the schools central office conducted its own investigation of their search.

School board member Bob Smart confirmed high school principal Dr. Lori Watrous was questioned by superintendant Dr. Daniel Lukich regarding her actions.

In addition, Lukich visited Sheriff Ronnie Crockett’s office and questioned him and his deputies about their procedures at the school.

“I don’t like people accusing my deputies,” said Sheriff Crockett about his conversation with Lukich. “The way Lt. Self described how the search was conducted, there was no way Lori could have planted drugs in the book bag,” said the sheriff. “At the end of the meeting, Lukich said he was satisfied with everything and appreciated everything we’d done.”

However, the dispute continued in a closed session of the school board Saturday that involved testimony from the student and his extended family, Watrous, vice principal Mike Daddario and chief of the sheriff’s investigation unit, Lt. Tim Self.

When they emerged into open session, the school board members voted 4-0 to expel the student to the alternative school in Warsaw for the remainder of the term. They said he may return to Lancaster High in the fall for his senior year provided his grades improve and there are no other referrals.

Board member Ella Davis was not present for the closed session.

According to Sheriff Crockett, the unannounced drug sweep on February 13 was conducted according to procedures upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Three deputies from Lancaster and one from Northumberland entered the high school with two K-9s trained in drug detection. They divided into two teams and randomly checked eight or nine classrooms with each team accompanied by Watrous or Daddario. Students waited in the hallway as the K-9 teams sniffed through the classrooms. The teams also checked lockers, restrooms and the student parking lot, and Sheriff Crockett said no other drugs were found in the school.

“The purpose of random drug sweeps is to protect the safety of students and to ensure we have a drug-free environment,” said Watrous.

Two NHS students sent to alternative school following drug search

CLARAVILLE—During a routine drug search last week at Northumberland High School, a drug dog alerted on two vehicles in the parking lot. As a result, two students were expelled to the alternative school.

According to Northumberland County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jane Wrightson, only trace amounts of drugs were found in the students’ vehicles, “...not enough for us to charge them,” she said.

Under the school district’s policy of zero tolerance, the school board voted 4-0 last week to expel the seniors. However, if they pass their courses at the alternative school they will graduate on time, according to school officials.

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