K-9s sweep Hampden Academy lots

Posted June 10, 2009, at 8:02 p.m.

HAMDPEN, Maine — Three Hampden Academy students may be suspended for possession of drugs after Maine State Police drug-sniffing canines on Wednesday morning searched the school’s parking lot, Superintendent Rick Lyons said after the dogs left.

“Some students will be suspended,” he said. “We’re looking at up to three suspensions.”

Hampden Police Chief Joe Rogers added that, “we anticipate at least two people could be charged” in connection with the canine search.

The school department asked State Police to bring the dogs to the school a couple of months ago, and Wednesday just happened to be the day that they were available, Lyons said. The search is just one piece of a larger comprehensive plan to address the problem of student drug use, he said.

“We have two canine units from State Police and we’re doing a sweep of all the parking lots,” Sgt. Dan Stewart, who was one of four Hampden officers on scene, said just after 9 a.m. from his post near the school’s entrance.

If both drug-sniffing dogs indicated they found something in a vehicle, “the student and the parents and guardians were contacted” before the vehicle was opened and searched, Lyons said.

“We got some marijuana,” Rogers said, adding that two students voluntarily handed over unidentified drugs to officers. “Two people were leaving and turned the stuff over prior to the dogs approaching their cars.”

Only the parking lot was searched by the dogs, the police chief said.

“Today, [is] just a small part of the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do in SAD 22,” Lyons said.

Other parts of the SAD 22 student drug use plan include creating a new policy, “Drug and Alcohol Use by Students,” which is a rewrite of current policies in place that has “more substance,” Lyons said.

Retooling that policy actually began months ago because of the “perceived substance abuse issue with our athletic teams,” Lyons said.

Students Against Destructive Decisions, a Hampden Academy student advocacy group, helped with developing the new policy, Lyons said.

“They have been instrumental in lending their expertise and voice,” he said.

The first reading of the policy was done last week and the second reading, and possible adoption, is scheduled to happen during the June 17 school board meeting. At that meeting, Bangor police Lt. Tom Regan also will make a presentation to the board regarding drug use prevention.

The school district is “committed to providing a safe environment for teaching and learning,” Lyons said. “Our children and employees have the right to come to, and work in, such an environment.”

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