A veteran Round Lake High School physical education teacher who claims to be a marijuana activist is due in court next month on drug-related and other charges, authorities said Thursday.
Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette said the instructor, Gina Epps, was on her lunch break Jan. 29 when she was pulled over on a traffic stop and later charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, expired registration, failure to notify the secretary of state of an address change and an equipment violation. He said all of the charges are misdemeanors.
Along with finding 1.5 grams of pot in a plastic bag, Gillette said, an officer who received consent to search her vehicle located two marijuana pipes and two packages of rolling papers. He said the cop also noticed a bracelet with a marijuana leaf charm and stickers bearing pot plant images in the car.
"She's a marijuana activist," Gillette said. "That's what she told the officer."
Epps, 39, of the 700 block of Morris Court in Lakemoor, is scheduled to appear in Lake County circuit court in Waukegan on March 1. She's the second Lake County teacher to have a marijuana-related arrest surface this week.
Peter Mulloy, 50, a special-education teacher at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, was charged Feb. 9 with possession of marijuana and possession of drug equipment, both misdemeanors, police said. Authorities accuse Mulloy of smoking pot under the Antioch High School gymnasium bleachers during a boys sectional wrestling tournament.
Neither Epps nor Mulloy could be reached for comment.
At Round Lake Area Unit District 116, Human Resources Coordinator Jerri Ryan said in a statement Thursday that officials have been "investigating the situation with Mrs. Epps" since learning of her arrest. Ryan said Epps was not at work Thursday, but cited confidential personnel matters in declining to elaborate.
"In situations like this, our first and foremost concern is with the safety and well-being of the students and the school community," Ryan said.
Epps has been a Round Lake High physical education teacher since Aug. 11, 2005, Ryan said.
Gillette said Epps was driving alone in a 2009 Chevrolet Impala when she was pulled over on the traffic stop at 11:32 a.m. Jan. 29 near Long Lake and Valentin drives, not far from Round Lake High. He said the officer pursued Epps because she had an expired vehicle registration tag and no front license plate.
What the officer recognized as a strong marijuana odor was wafting from Epps' car as he approached, Gillette said. He said Epps, who is free on a recognizance bond, denied smoking any pot.
Gillette said police became aware Epps was a teacher when she was asked to provide her occupation during the booking process.
Her defense attorney, Barry Lewis, did not address the case specifically but said he's confident Epps will be cleared of the drug-related charges.
As for Mulloy, Warren Township High School District 121 Interim Superintendent Mary Perry Bates said he has been a teacher there since 2007. She said Mulloy, of the 21000 block of Michelle Lane in Antioch Township, attended the Illinois High School Association wrestling sectional as a supporter, not in an official capacity for Warren.
Because it's a personnel matter, Bates said, she could not disclose whether Mulloy has been placed on leave from the high school. However, she added, officials have been following district policy and that Warren board members know about Mulloy, who wasn't at work Thursday.
An off-duty police officer at the wrestling meet smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from below the bleachers, Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville said. The cop confronted Mulloy and then contacted Antioch authorities.
He was freed on $120 bond Feb. 9, with an unknown court date.