By BILL CHRISTIANSON
Redmond High School is the center of attention this afternoon after Redmond Police arrested and charged 11 students for violation of the uniform controlled substance act following a seven-month undercover operation.
Starting around 8:30 this morning, police officers swept through the school and city, finding and arresting two 15-year-olds, six 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds, according to Redmond Police spokesperson, Jim Bove. There may be more arrests as the investigation is ongoing, Bove said.
It was the biggest school drug bust since 2003, when police arrested five Redmond High students for illegal drugs, according to Bove.
During the undercover operation, officers purchased marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA, and a variety of prescription medications.
Redmond Police and Lake Washington School District officials along with Mayor John Marchione are calling it a "wake-up call" for the community.
"Adults are naive if they think there's not drugs in every high school," Marchione told The Reporter following a ribbon cutting ceremony at Eastside Basketball Club Friday afternoon. "The fact that we can be proactive in reaching out to kids in both rehabilitation and enforcement is important. To pretend drugs don't exist in high school perpetuates the problem. They're there and if people are shocked if they are found at Redmond High — or any high school — I think they are naive."
The most alarming part about the bust was "the variety of drugs," Bove said.
"We hope it's a wake-up call to what's going on in our society," Bove said. "We hope families use this as a learning opportunity and have conversations with their children, know who their friends are, and educate them on the negative effects of using controlled substances.
"This school is a large and positive part of our community and we share in the school’s no-tolerance mission," Bove continued. "This in no way reflects the overall student body.”
The undercover operation was a collaborative effort with the Redmond High School administration and part of a well-planned undercover operation, targeting the use, possession, and distribution of illegal substances on and off campus since the beginning of the school year.
Bove said all of the charges, which includes use, possession and distribution of illegal substances, "stemmed from the students delivering the drugs to our staff." In other words, the undercover officers never sold drugs to the students, they only bought them from the students, Bove said.
Bove did confirm that the teenage suspects were processed and released this afternoon following the morning arrests. Redmond Police will forward the charging documents to the King County Prosecutor's Office, probably sometime early next week, Bove said.
"It was a collaborative effort," Bove said. "The Lake Washington School District has a zero tolerance for drugs and so do we. We are not happy this is occurring in our schools, but we hope this makes an impact of getting (drugs) out of our schools and city."
School administrators will sit down with the arrested students and their families and conduct their own investigation, according to Kathryn Reith, Lake Washington School District Communications Director. From there, they will determine the consequences — most likely a suspension of some sort, Reith said.
"There have to be consequences, but we also want to make sure the student continues their education," Reith said. "We want to help them get back on track."
Reith made clear that the arrests "are not a reflection that there is a (drug) problem at Redmond High." Instead "it is a reflection that this is an issue at all high schools," she said.
Reith cited the 2008 Washington State Healthy Use Survey, which stated that 20.4 percent 10th-graders around the state admitted to using illegal drugs in the last 30 days, while 11 percent of 10th-graders at Redmond High said they tried illegal drugs.
As for high school seniors, the state percentage was 24.6 and the Redmond percentage was 22.7, Reith said.
"I can bet you a lot of parents will be talking with their kids tonight and that's a very positive thing to happen," Reith said. "This is a wake-up call for some people."
Marchione, who has a college-age son and a daughter who attends Redmond High, said that he and his wife have been very proactive in educating their children about the dangers of illegal drugs.
"It was a problem in high school when I was kid, it doesn't surprise me that drugs are still around my kids in high school," Marchione said. "It was always a concern of mine from day one to work with my kids constantly so it's not a problem in my family."
This article was originally published in the Redmond Reporter on February 19, 2010.
Bill Christianson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.