ROCKPORT, Maine — Concerned about bath salts found in the school, parents of Camden Hills Regional High School students gathered to talk about the issue.
Last month a student brought the designer drug bath salts to school and left it under a seat cushion. That student has been identified, according to Rockport Police Chief Mark Kelley, and the case is being brought to the District Attorney’s Office.
In the wake of finding the drug, school officials organized the parent meeting.
About 400 parents sat in the school’s gym bleachers Tuesday night and heard from local doctors, police and school officials about drugs in the school of 650 students.
“This better scare all of us,” said Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne. “It’s crazy. It’s something we all have to work together on. Parents, if you see it, don’t think you can handle it yourself. Call police. This is not a puff of marijuana behind the school. This isn’t a sip of alcohol. This can kill your kid.”
To control the problem at Camden Hills, Principal Nick Ithomitis said the school will begin to do regular searches with drug dogs. It’s unclear if drug-sniffing dogs can smell bath salts, but likely there are other drugs in the school, officials said.
Sheriff Donna Dennison said that although bath salts are terrifying, prescription drugs are a more widespread problem in Knox County. Alcohol and marijuana also are more prevalent, police said at the meeting.
In the school this year, five students have been caught with marijuana. One student was caught with Vicodin and one other student was caught with alcohol. Three Camden Hills Regional High School students are in rehab right now, Ithomitis said Tuesday.
According to 2010 numbers, 80 percent of Camden Hills 12th-graders have consumed alcohol and more than half of the students said they had tried or do smoke marijuana. About 20 percent of the school’s 12th-graders have abused prescription drugs and used hallucinogens. About 10 percent of those polled by the state said they had used cocaine.
Last year, the high school said it had a “scourge” of drug incidents but would not release information on how many. As a reaction to this, the high school hired a substance abuse counselor to help deal with the problem. The school also put together a substance abuse prevention committee last year.
Officials at the time said there would be more drug-sniffing dog searches. But there were zero conducted last year, Ithomitis said on Tuesday.
That will change, he said. When officials were notified that bath salts were in the school, “that sent a shock wave through the administration,” Ithomitis said. Now the dogs will be on campus and off campus sniffing for drugs as often as necessary, the principal told parents.
The point of the meeting on Tuesday night was to show people that the school is aggressively working to make the high school a drug-free environment, Ithomitis said.
Patrick McGrath, a father from Hope, has a daughter in the school. He left Tuesday night happy to know the school was getting serious.
“They’re not going to back down,” McGrath said. “There has been a drug problem in this school for decades and they are finally doing something about it.”
Sue White, a mother from Camden, wasn’t as convinced.
“Last year they said they would bring in dogs and they didn’t,” she said.
But even if they did, she wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t find anything.
“They warn and warn and warn: The dogs are coming,” White said.
According to her, the searches probably won’t do much if they do happen this year.
“Parents are having parties. They have to quit having these parties at home. It happens all the time. Until we get parents’ support, the school can’t do much,” she said.
That message was a theme throughout the night.
We only have them seven hours a day, Ithomitis said. It’s what parents tell their kids that matters.