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Police investigate two local marijuana cases in schools

Marijuana has been found in a McDuffie County school for the second time this month.

A random drug search at the Thomson-McDuffie County Junior High School by the Thomson Police Department and Taliaferro County Sheriff's Department resulted in a small bag of marijuana being found in a classroom last Wednesday night, according to TPD Assistant Chief Jerry Stanphill.

At least two students were questioned, but no one charged.

The marijuana, wrapped in a plastic bag with a street value of $5, was found inside a black calculator pouch that hung from a wall of a classroom. The find was made shortly before 2 p.m. by "Eba," Thomson's new drug dog, whose handler is Sgt. John James. The dog alerted to the marijuana immediately after she began searching the empty classroom.

Sgt. Willie Williams, who was assisted by Officer Josh Caston, took the marijuana into evidence.

"If drugs are in any of our schools, we want them out," said McDuffie County School Superintendent Mark Petersen prior to the bag of marijuana being found in the classroom. "This is a learning place for boys and girls. Students should never bring drugs onto our school property."

Principal Steve Rhodes agreed, saying, "We are going to continue to do random drug checks so that we can keep drugs out of our school."

Neil Tam, who serves as assistant principal at the new school, said such checks are important because it lets students know that illegal drugs won't be tolerated at the school and that there could be serious consequences for students who are caught.

"The random drug checks in our classrooms are one of the best ways we have of dealing with this sort of problem," said Mr. Tam. "The drug dogs are a real big help to us."

Eighth and ninth grade students knew nothing about the random drug search until school administrators, along with police officers came to their classrooms.

It marks the second time in a span of two weeks that drugs have been discovered in one of the local schools.

Three students at Thomson High School and one student at TMJHS recently were charged with possession of marijuana, according to THS Principal Rudy Falana. He identified the two older students as Shareka Harris, 17 and Dominique Harris, 17. A third student and the one from the new junior high, both 15, could not be identified because of their ages, he said.

Mr. Falana said he received a tip about the students being in the possession of marijuana and followed up on that tip with THS Officer Lorenzo Heggs, which led to the charges against all four students.

The principal said four nickel bags of marijuana were discovered on Thursday, Feb. 12.

Web posted on Thursday, February 26, 2009

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