FAIRFAX -- School officials here have reacted to the discovery of a small amount of marijuana and alcohol in an investigation that could lead to criminal prosecution of students.
D. Scott Lang, Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax principal, Friday morning said marijuana and alcohol were discovered on school grounds Wednesday. He said the incidents again point out the need for a community discussion about substance abuse among the young.
Vermont State Police already are involved in the marijuana investigation and could be called into another incident involving use of alcohol inside the school, said Lang.
"We are really concerned. There is an ongoing investigation and we have a number of young people to talk to,: said Lang. He indicated that about six students thus far were implicated for questioning and that their parents had been contacted or soon would be.
"Even if a kid was not involved, we are going to let the parents know if he or she was questioned,: said Lang.
Phil Higgins, superintendent of schools for the Franklin West Supervisory Union said, "An investigation is ongoing. We are taking this very, very seriously. We are taking the layers of the onion and peeling them back now. We're embroiled in the middle of it."
Higgins referred further comment to Lang who said school officials became aware of a rumor that alcohol was present in a school restroom. He said a ceiling tile was removed Wednesday evening. "Lo and behold, we found three containers (containing alcohol), said Lang.
He described the containers as a flower vase, water bottle, and a toothbrush holder.
The Messenger learned Friday that alcohol may have been distributed or sold in the boys lavatory by a seventh grade boy or boys who brought it to school from their homes. Lang, restricted by the school's confidentiality policy, said he could not provide names or ages of students involved. He did, however, confirm that alcohol probably was sold in the restroom.
Experience has shown that when charges are brought in these matters, they most likely go to juvenile court, where records are sealed and names are kept confidential.
The marijuana possession allegation was said to have involved a female student, but Lang would not confirm that.
Last year BFA referred 14 students for drug and alcohol assessment as part of the school's policy that works with offenders and their parents following a drug and/or alcohol related incident. A recommendation is then forwarded to parents and the school to help prevent future violations.
As of this date last year, seven students had been referred for assessment. Up until Wednesday's discoveries, four referrals had been made in this school year, said Lang.
The school principal said a trend is developing in which younger students are getting involved in use of drugs and alcohol.
All parents of children in the age group of those involved in the most recent incidents, said Lang, should expect a letter from the school soon to explain the administration's handling of the situation.
He stressed that the school drug and alcohol policy has a strong educational component. "We are going to work with teachers and use this as an educational opportunity," said Lang.
A public forum involving the community, parents, and school staff would be a good start to addressing the issue further, said the principal.
"Kids are not learning if they are drinking and getting high," said Lang. "We are about learning."
He reiterated a common theme discussed when substance abuse is found in Franklin County; Children in rural areas have little to do to occupy themselves constructively outside of school.
"There is not a whole lot for kids to do," said Lang. "Every game in town is right here at the school and that leaves some kids at risk."
BFA's current drug/alcohol abuse policy was adopted in December 2000. Lang said the school has a student assistance counselor who will be involved as the result of the recent incidents.
"This is an opportunity for kids to take ownership of their school and to say, "We don't want this happening here," said Lang.