A 17-year-old Capital High School student has been charged as an adult for allegedly dealing marijuana.
Dustin W. Pershall faces a felony charge of criminal possession with intent to distribute, according to documents filed in District Court on Thursday.
School officials and a Helena police officer found a mason jar containing a large amount of marijuana in addition to multiple plastic bags with suspected pot in them inside Pershall’s pickup in the school’s parking lot Tuesday, court documents allege. Two scales also were located along with a bong and three glass pipes.
School staff became suspicious after receiving information that Pershall had returned from lunch smelling of marijuana, the documents state, and his truck was subsequently searched.
“Pershall admitted the drugs and drug paraphernalia were his and that he sold marijuana, but not at school,” court documents say.
The school district won’t release school records, so Superintendent Bruce Messinger wouldn’t speak specifically about this case. However, he was willing to address specific rules about what is allowed on school campuses and what is not.
In Montana, a student expulsion can only be administered by school boards, and Messinger said it has been a long time since that action was taken.
“We will not place a student in a situation where they create a safety threat to themselves or others,” he said.
While expulsions are rare, it’s more common for the district to try to accommodate students by educating them off campus, either through homebound, Montana Digital Academy, or other district-sponsored alternative programs.
“We have options throughout the spectrum,” Messinger said.
It’s strictly against policy to have drugs on campus, but the administrators have leeway within the policy to use discretion, case by case, to manage the violations.
Messinger said the district is conducting its own investigation and the legal system has to work on its own issues. However, being a felon isn’t necessarily grounds for keeping a student out of school.
“We try to find out as much as possible about students, and if there is any evidence that they will be successful, we’ll educate them,” he said.
When it comes to discipline, the HSD works case by case.
“We’ll have to see how it will work through our system,” Messinger said. “We don’t have enough information today to see if we have the ability to be effective.”