The Ottumwa Courier

September 19, 2013

Sixth-grade pot bust

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Police at Evans Middle School have charged a 12-year-old with drug possession.

"A student was in possession of drug paraphernalia on school grounds," said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of Ottumwa schools. "We never want to see those items on or around school grounds."

The arresting officer reported that there were two charges: possession of drug paraphernalia and prohibited acts, which, in Ottumwa, is typically the charge used for possession of marijuana.

Evans Middle School Principal Dave Harper said the child did not have actual drugs on his person but explained that the items for drug use appeared to have enough residue from marijuana that the student was charged with the additional crime.

The child, whose name is not being published by the Courier, was detained by police Monday, then placed under arrest at 3 p.m. as school ended for the day.

Harper said the student had no history of such behavior. It appears to have been a poor choice made by a youngster who'd had contact with some older kids. Harper said the youth and his parents agreed this would be a one-time mistake and that it was time to start making better choices. He was caught because he showed off the "bong" to other students at school.

"It was actually brought to the staff's attention by students," said Eidahl. "Which, again, we never want to see those items at our schools. But to know our students are taking responsibility for having a safe environment is a good thing. We work hard at creating a safe and welcoming environment for each and every student. But in many cases, our students are part of that team [effort which] makes that happen."

At the middle school level, it's uncommon for students to be caught with drugs. But when they are, Eidahl said, it's usually not pot. Educators face "new challenges," he said.

"What we have found to be more common, is banned prescription drugs, as far as that age group," he said. "I'm not saying [drug possession by Evans students] happens a lot, but it's typically a prescription drug that belongs to a family member, not them. Proactively, we've done a lot to educate our students on the dangers of misusing over-the-counter or prescription drugs and the legality of those issues."

And the trouble facing a student accused of having a bong with drug residue?

"There are two separate categories there. The school has board policy. We'll follow [that], which does involve suspension or, at times, expulsion. The district will issue appropriate consequences," Eidahl said. "On a separate issue ... because it was illegal, we do notify police and they take it from there. The police will follow whatever steps they see fit."

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark