BELFAST, Maine — Belfast Area High School officials expelled a student on Tuesday night after he apparently was caught in January selling drugs on school property.
RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux confirmed Wednesday that the school district’s board of directors decided in executive session to expel the student.
“He was expelled as other students have been in the past, with conditions. It’s our hope that those conditions will be fulfilled,” Mailloux said.
He would not divulge more information, such as whether it was a one-time situation or an ongoing problem. The offense occurred roughly 10 days ago, according to a school administrator.
“It’s much less common now than it used to be,” Mailloux said of students selling drugs at school.
About five years ago, the 640-student high school had a major problem, according to the superintendent.
“We drew a line in the sand, and said, ‘enough is enough,’” he recalled. “A student should have the right to come to school and not be faced with that kind of activity.”
School Resource Officer Greg Stearns, a policeman with the Belfast Police Department, said he has been working in the high school and middle school for four years. While he wouldn’t comment on the incident that led to the student’s expulsion, he did say that schools function as microcosms of their community. When there are drugs in the community, there are drugs in the school, he said.
Stearns said he has seen much less acceptance of drugs in school on the part of other students.
“What has changed a lot in the last 20 years is that it’s less accepted,” he said. “The majority of the kids don’t want it in the school.”
He said that on a daily basis, he receives calls, emails or visits from students and parents who have information they want to share with him.
“This job is not just marching the hallways and being a cop. My first goal was to knock down the wall between the [police] uniform and our young people,” he said. “This is a great school. Students here are awesome kids … they let us know what they don’t want going on in their school.”
According to Stearns, the school is careful to follow its administrative guidelines when there is suspicion that a student is selling drugs.
When students are found with drugs, they are suspended, he said. When students are caught selling drugs at school, they are charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs.
Neither Stearns nor Mailloux would comment on whether the expelled student will face criminal charges or name the drug being sold.
“These days, there are just as many prescription medications as marijuana,” Stearns said.
Until recently, a majority of Maine students self-reported that their first experiences with illegal substances occurred with alcohol or marijuana, but that has changed.
“Most kids’ first drug experience is with opiates, because they are so prevalent,” Stearns said. “The sad thing about opiates is that they’re so addicting that some people can be addicted the first time they try it.”
He said he tries to focus on the positive work that happens at the school.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, even when kids screw up, they’re just kids who made a mistake,” he said. “They’re going to learn from those mistakes. I call it ‘making a positive out of a negative.’ Had they not been caught, and held accountable, who knows if they’d make that change?”