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Schools would be notified of drug arrests under bill

March 17, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Under Maryland law, police agencies must contact school systems when students are arrested outside of school.

A lengthy list of crimes is covered, but Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, is trying to include another one.

His bill, heard Thursday, would add the crime of possession or administration of controlled dangerous substances to the list of reportable offenses.

Myers said it appears that the Maryland General Assembly overlooked that crime in a bill it passed last year.

During a bill hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, Robert Farrell, the coordinator of security, safety and risk management for Allegany County Public Schools, said he got a page at 6 a.m. on Thursday about a student charged with possessing drugs with intent to distribute.

The school system suspected several months earlier that the same student might have had drugs, but didn't hear anything from the police, he said.

If the student were charged with drug possession — an offense that doesn't currently require reporting — and the school system had been informed, it could have helped the student earlier and possibly avoided the new crime, Farrell said.

Farrell, who used to work for the Maryland State Police, said the school district, after hearing of a criminal charge, meets with the student, parents or guardians, the principal and possibly others, such as a psychologist, to figure out how to address the problem.

The list of reportable offenses in the "Safe Schools Act" includes murder, manslaughter, assault, rape, malicious defacing of property, carjacking and possessing firearms.

Reports to the school system are confidential.

Farrell said he hears from police about once a week about students getting arrested.

Testifying against the bill, Betsy Fox Tolentino, a legislative staff attorney with the state Office of the Public Defender, said school systems already are notified of serious crimes.

She said the current law "strikes a very careful balance between a presumption of innocence, the confidentiality of juvenile proceedings and public safety by limiting reportable offenses to those most serious offenses that have the most impact on school safety."

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