Lakewood High School students facing potential charges in alleged drug use, distribution investigation

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Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 1:32 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2022 at 10:13 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office says up to three students at Lakewood High School are facing potential charges in connection with an investigation into alleged drug use and distribution on school grounds.

The sheriff’s office said more information is needed to determine whether family court or criminal court charges apply. The students are also subject to disciplinary actions from the school.

According to the sheriff’s office, there have been several incidents in the last few days of students feeling ill and seeking medical treatment.

In one case, a student was transported to the hospital.

Investigators say some of these illnesses could be traced back to vape pens and edibles that may have contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana.

“Not only can these items be detrimental to the student’s health and safety, but they are also unlawful,” Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said in a statement. “Violators that are possessing or distributing these type of items in the school will be prosecuted accordingly. The safety and future of these students is the future of our community.”

Investigators were at Lakewood High on Friday, one of three high schools in the Sumter County School District.

The sheriff’s office said there have also been several rumors on social media about possible overdoses, fentanyl use, and a student death.

There have been no student deaths and no indication of fentanyl being used on school grounds, the sheriff’s office said.

In an update Friday evening, Dennis said the investigation will continue to focus on the safety and accountability of the students.

“So far, the only drug-related matter continues to be vape pens and edibles that possibly contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” he said.

Sumter County Schools Superintendent Dr. William Wright stressed to parents the importance of talking to children about the dangers of drug use, and that any suspicious activity should be reported to school officials immediately.

“The safety of our students is our number one priority,” Wright said in a statement. “It is important that we all understand the severity of this situation because these substances are not safe.”

Dennis also expressed a similar sentiment and added that both students and parents should be cautious about turning to social media before reporting incidents to the proper authorities.

Calvin Bennett, whose son attends Lakewood High, said all parents should discuss with their children the dangers that exist in today’s world, and how to resist peer pressure.

“It is our job as parents as parents to warn our children of things that are out there,” he said. “When we look into these children’s faces, we’re looking into the mirror of what was taught or not taught, period.”

Parents should have been having these conversations before the alleged drug use at Lakewood High, Bennet said.

“You should’ve had these talks,” he said. “You should’ve warned them of alcohol usage. You should’ve warned them of drug usage. You should’ve warned them of the new drugs that they think ain’t that bad like vaping. You got no business partaking in none of that. But you’re trying to shelter your children and these are the effects.”

Bennett shared a message with Lakewood High students, one he said he often reiterates to his son.

“People will trick you into doing things, for whatever – thinking it’s a joke, you know, thinking it’s funny,” he said. “Well life is not funny and you’re talking about real adult problems, and you don’t want those problems. But like I tell people, what you do now affects your future. So stay away from that stuff. That’s a problem you do not want.”

According to Bennett, parents should pay more attention to what their children are doing, including on social media, and programs about the dangers of drug usage should be implemented in schools.

“We can’t be having this,” he said. “We don’t need this problem because we don’t want to be having the same problem you see in other cities because once it gets too far out of hand, it’s hard to stop a moving train.”

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