Honolulu police are investigating a drug bust at Aiea High School, but it’s a case that experts say could be compromised because of the way it was handled by the school.
KHON2 started investigating after hearing from sources that school officials confiscated a large amount of marijuana from students on March 6, but the school waited a day to report the drugs to police.
In a statement, complex area superintendent John Erickson said the department’s Chapter 19 policy does not require administrators to call the police immediately. The DOE says Aiea High School principal Kim Sanders suspended the students involved after opening her own investigation.
But there are critics of Chapter 19, saying it allows the principal too much leeway. “You don’t want to have things open for interpretation,” said parent Melanie Bailey. “Chapter 19 should be making things black and white. It should be very clear what the action steps should be from an administrator’s view point when they have a problem.”
Legally, experts say it’s wrong, and not turning the drugs over to police right away could cause problems with the police investigation. “As a defense attorney, you’re going to argue that, hey, these drugs have been tampered with,” said defense Attorney Victor Bakke. “Maybe it’s not the same amount of drug, maybe it’s not the same type of drug.”
That argument begs the question of why the policy exists, allowing the principal to investigate before reporting to police. The DOE said no one was available to give an explanation, but a lawmaker in charge of the Senate education committee says the provision is there to protect the students.
“Are we taking care of our students?” said state Sen. Jill Tokuda. “Are we looking out for them from a due process standpoint? Take care of the child, first and foremost. That needs to be paramount.”
Sen. Tokuda says Chapter 19 isn’t perfect, but would not go as far as to say that the policy needs to be changed.
The Dept. of Education says student safety is of highest priority.
Honolulu police are investigating the case as promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree, a petty misdemeanor.