Police arrest Talmadge pair, 12, on drug-dealing charges

INDEPENDENCE -- Independence Police recently arrested two 12-year-old boys for buying and selling marijuana at Talmadge Middle School.



INDEPENDENCE -- Independence Police recently arrested two 12-year-old boys for buying and selling marijuana at Talmadge Middle School.

One of the suspects was also found with prescription pills he had taken from his home, including oxycodone, which he had planned to sell.

An instance or two of possession on Talmadge's campus a year -- unfortunately -- isn't uncommon, said Principal Perry LaBounty.

"They're usually older kids," LaBounty said. "That this was two sixth graders ... that was shocking.

"It's concerning when they're that bold enough to try to sell in school to their peers," he continued.

The students were arrested on April 28. The alleged dealer was charged with unlawful possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, delivery of the drug at a school and possession of a controlled substance -- oxycodone. The other youth was charged with possession.

According to a police report, one student sold the other a small amount of marijuana for $10. The buyer, after being called to the principal's office, hid the pot behind a garbage can in his classroom with the intent of returning for it later.

The seller also took a handful of pills from home, with plans to sell them to classmates for $1 apiece, despite not knowing what the pills were.

Both boys' cases were referred to the Polk County Juvenile Department.

Independence Police have experienced an increase in juvenile crime since the start of 2011, particularly as it relates to drugs in schools.

In March, a 14-year-old was arrested for theft by extortion when he threatened to beat another student unless he supplied him with marijuana.

LaBounty said that marijuana availability ebbs and flows in the schools.

"We're seeing an increase in juvenile behavior," he said. "I don't know if it's a sign of the economic times, reductions in services ... but it's concerning."

The school resource officer program at Talmadge and Central High lost its drug and gang prevention elements in recent years because of budget cuts. There will be no SRO next year.

"We've seen the impact with losing that instruction and positive interaction with law enforcement," LaBounty said. "Losing the SRO will hurt."

Not all is negative. More children have been willing and quick to report illegal activity they see, LaBounty said.

"Most cases where we've found drugs was based on other students reporting it," he said.

School improvement planning for the coming year will include drug and behavioral issue prevention methods, LaBounty said.

"We'll adjust how we respond proactively," he said.



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