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updated: 2/2/2012 5:35 AM

Text messages at heart of Stevenson drug investigation

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  • Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire became the site of a police investigation into drug trafficking, the school said Wednesday. Students have been suspended but none expelled or arrested.

       Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire became the site of a police investigation into drug trafficking, the school said Wednesday. Students have been suspended but none expelled or arrested.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 

Stevenson High School officials and Lincolnshire police used confiscated cellphones to unravel a drug-trafficking operation at the Lincolnshire campus, a school spokesman said Wednesday.

The investigation is focusing on text messages between one student suspected of being the supplier, and other students who were potential customers, Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.

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No arrests have been made in the case and no charges have been filed, Lincolnshire Police Chief Peter Kinsey said Wednesday afternoon. Conrey earlier said one teen had been arrested, but Kinsey said that was an unrelated case.

Because the matter is an ongoing investigation, Kinsey released few details to the media. He wouldn't say if any drugs have been recovered.

Some drugs did change hands on campus, Conrey confirmed. He declined to say how many students have been involved in the investigation or how many are facing disciplinary action.

"From our perspective, any number above one is too many," Conrey said.

The primary drug at the center of the investigation is marijuana, but it may expand to include others, officials said.

Conrey disputed a media report, based on student comments, alleging between 100 and 200 students were being investigated. That figure was exaggerated, he said.

"It's a small fraction of the whole student body," Conrey said. About 4,000 students attend Stevenson.

Just because police or school officials talk to a lot of students doesn't mean they're suspected of crimes, Kinsey said.

Conrey declined to detail the disciplinary action taken against the teens involved but said some students have been suspended. No students have been expelled because of the investigation, Conrey said.

Under Illinois law, expulsions require a public vote by a school board, and no such votes have taken place.

Punishments have varied because students were involved in different "levels of infractions," Conrey said.

Aside from campus discipline, school officials will work with the families of the students involved to get the help they need, Conrey said.

The investigation started in December when school officials received "credible evidence that there was a student involved in drug trafficking," Conrey said.

A single incident "got things going," Conrey said.

After school administrators spoke with the student, they seized the cellphones of other students as part of the investigation and began reading text messages, Conrey said.

Educators are allowed to confiscate cellphones if credible evidence of a crime exists, Conrey said.

"And there was ample evidence to do this," he said. "We're doing this by the book."

None of the communications were done using the school's email system or school computers, he said.

Police investigators also are following the law very carefully when it comes to searching the students' cellphones for clues, Chief Kinsey said.

Stevenson Superintendent Eric Twadell talked about the investigation in an email to the school staff Wednesday afternoon. The message addressed the need for student privacy and the importance of investigating students who may be "selling, purchasing, possessing, using or distributing impairing or intoxicating substances or participating in a plan to do so."

The full message is available on the Stevenson website, d125.org.

School board President Bruce Lubin said he is disappointed by the revelations.

"As a parent, as a school board member and as a human being, I am extremely concerned about the issue of drug use by teens at Stevenson or anywhere else," he said. "The sale of drugs on our campus is something we can't tolerate."

School board members have not publicly or privately discussed the investigation with each other, Lubin said. He said he was informed of the investigation in late December.

The school board next meets Feb. 13.

Across from Stevenson High School Wednesday afternoon, senior Paul Shergill, 18, of Deerfield, said the controversy was all students could talk about most of the day.

"Every time someone opened the classroom door, like a pass runner, half the class jumped," he said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Melissa Silverberg contributed to this report.

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