Pubdate: Sat, 18 Dec 2004
Source: Union, The (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Nevada County Publishing Company
Author: William Ferchland
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - A four-month investigation by an undercover agent
posing as a South Tahoe High School student resulted in the arrest
Wednesday morning of eight teenagers accused of selling drugs during
school hours.

The arrests occurred minutes after school began. Three teams of law
enforcement officers from around the area in raid gear went into
classrooms of the alleged drug dealers and arrested them in front of
their classmates.

The undercover agent, a member of the California Alcoholic Beverage
Control who pretended to be an upperclassman, bought psychedelic
mushrooms, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, authorities said.
Prescription pills such as Ritalin, Adderall and Vicodin were also

South Lake Tahoe Police Lt. Martin Hewlett said the drugs the agent
bought were in small quantities designed for personal use.

"Obviously we were able to buy fairly easily there," he said.

For the sake of safety, the identity and intent of the agent was
unknown to many people, including School Resource Officer Johnny
Poland, school administrators and district officials. Some students
learned of the fake student's true role since the agent was part of
the arresting team.

Classrooms with windows that authorities walked past provided students
a bird's-eye view of their fellow students in handcuffs. One student,
a senior who wished not to be identified, said authorities walked into
his morning's civics class.

"Then they're, like, 'We need to talk to (a student.) He's under
arrest for selling narcotics,' " the senior said.

The eight arrested included one female. Ages ranged from 14 to 17
years old. At least one student was arrested off-campus at a home,
Hewlett said.

The eight will be prosecuted as juveniles and charged with felonies,
said Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe. They likely face expulsion
from school but the district's board of education makes the final decision.

"Nobody in this group has been charged with straight possession," Uthe
said. "This is about sales. That was the focus of our program."

At lunch, confused teachers were given a debriefing about the
circumstances of the day.

"We didn't have any idea what was going on," said Mike Patterson, the
auto shop teacher. "It's sad but (the arrests) didn't surprise me."

Instructor Chris Morgan recalled his time as a student at South Tahoe
High School in the late 1980s when two undercover agents posing as
students led to the arrest of classmates.

"History has a way of repeating itself," said Morgan, a history

Rumors circulated throughout campus, such as the number of those in
custody. The rumor escalated until it reached above the 60 mark, said
senior Mari Peshon. She expected the arrests to have a short-term
effect on curbing sales on or near campus.

"It will have an impact but not a lasting one," Peshon said.
"Hopefully it will have a ripple effect, but I don't know."

Associate Principal Jack Stafford said incidents of dealing drugs at
the high school have increased because the population has swelled.

"I don't think it's rampant but obviously it needed some attention and
it got it," Stafford said. "I applaud law enforcement's efforts."
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