Pubdate: Fro, 16 Dec 2011
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2011 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel


It was a typical Thursday morning at Lake Worth High School until 
police burst onto the scene and arrested three students in an 
undercover drug sting.

"They knew who they were coming after," Principal George Lockhart said 
a few hours later. "They grabbed the kids and they were gone." 

The action - which coincided with nine arrests at Boynton Beach High 
School - was the latest milestone in a long-term investigation called 
"Operation D-Minus," Palm Beach County School District Police Chief 
Jim Kelly said. 

"We're continuing on with our operation," he said, declining to offer 
specifics because law enforcement agencies were still making arrests.

In May, police arrested 30 students at Park Vista, Royal Palm Beach 
and Jupiter high schools, and at other schools. Most of them were 
charged as adults with selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school.

Undercover officers had posed as students, attending classes for most 
of the 2010-11 school year, and even took the FCAT and completed 
homework assignments, Kelly said after those initial arrests.

The officers managed to make friends with the students and bought 
drugs from them. The operation also led to the arrests of students at 
William T. Dwyer High School, two middle school students and two 
people who were home-schooled.

At the time, police officials promised the investigation would expand 
to target suspected illegal activity at other schools. They also said 
they wanted the arrests to serve as a warning to other students who 
were using or selling illegal substances.

Details about the latest arrests are to be revealed during a news 
conference scheduled for Friday, according to the Palm Beach County 
State Attorney's Office. School district officials deferred comment, 
instead releasing a two-sentence prepared statement that said, "We are 
wrapping up an undercover operation at several of our schools."

At Boynton Beach High, Principal Karen Whetsell said Thursday's 
arrests were carried out "with as minimal disruption as possible."

"The officers walked in [classrooms] and asked for the students and 
left," she said, adding that the activity took about 20 minutes.

At both schools, the principals said they knew only that police had 
been working undercover. They were not told about the arrests until 
moments beforehand.

"They told me at the last second," Lockhart said. "They knew where 
they were going. I didn't have to give out any class schedules."

School Board policy requires that students face expulsion if caught 
selling drugs. If they are not allowed to return to their schools, 
they can attend classes at an alternative campus or through a virtual school.

The arrests come as marijuana use by teenagers is soaring across the 
nation, according to a major survey released Wednesday.

The 2011 Monitoring the Future report, sponsored by the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, questioned almost 47,000 teenagers in the 
eighth, 10th and 12th grades. It found that one in four students - 25 
percent - indicated they had used marijuana during the previous year, 
up from 21.4 percent four years ago.

The report also said one in 15 of the high school seniors regularly 
used marijuana, the highest level in 30 years.

Before Operation D-Minus, the last undercover drug sting in Palm Beach 
County schools was Operation Old Schoolhouse in the 2005-06 school year.

During that investigation, five officers from the Delray Beach police 
and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office posed as students.

They studied, attended football games and went to parties as they 
gathered evidence leading to the arrest of 13 students at Wellington, 
Forest Hill, John I. Leonard, William T. Dwyer and Jupiter high 
schools. Most were charged with selling marijuana near campus. 
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