In this March 2008 file photo, a police cruiser sits in front of Cape Elizabeth High School. Police are investigating a Friday, Dec. 10, 2012 marijuana-cookie incident that has led to the suspension of nine Cape Elizabeth High School students.
By Matt Byrne
Police say they think that an incident involving marijuana cookies at Cape Elizabeth High School last week involved more than the nine students who were immediately suspended for it.
No one has been charged in Friday's incident, which has drawn sharp reactions from parents and students, many of them critical of the media coverage.
"Things like this happen at a lot of schools in the state and the country," said Abi Hunter, 17, a senior at the high school. "It's unfortunate we're being targeted for the mistakes of a few students."
Police were called to the high school Friday to investigate the possible sale of marijuana. Capt. Brent Sinclair would not say whether the person who provided the cookies was, in fact, selling them.
"I don't really have anything new to add to the 'cookie caper,' if you will," Sinclair said Wednesday. "Probably this time next week, I would hope that we would have this thing wrapped up."
Police have continued investigating and interviewed more people since Monday afternoon, when they had done only one interview.
"I think there will be more than nine that will be involved," Sinclair said Wednesday. "From the people we have spoken to so far, they've all been students."
Sinclair said he does not know how many students in all were involved.
So far, all of the students who have been interviewed have told police that they knew the cookies contained marijuana, Sinclair said.
Police obtained at least one of the chocolate chip cookies, and a preliminary test by the department confirmed the presence of marijuana, he said.
No testing for other illegal substances has been done, and none of the students suggested that they believed the cookies contained other drugs, Sinclair said.
The cookies don't look like they contain anything suspect, Sinclair said. "If you held them in your hand, maybe," he said.
Some students who ate the laced cookies felt ill and went to the school nurse's office. It wasn't clear whether those visits alerted school officials and authorities.
Sinclair said he did not know what symptoms the students had, but it may become clearer when police get statements from the nurse and other school officials.
In an email message to parents, high school Principal Jeffrey Shedd lauded TEDx, the day-long motivational event that the school held Friday, and that some news reports mistakenly connected to the cookie incident.
"The choices of this small number of students, while unfortunate, help remind us of the value of events, such as TEDx day, that call us to big ideas and that inspire us to reflect on and follow, in the words of Lincoln, 'the better angels of our nature,'" Shedd wrote.
The school district's policy calls for a student who distributes or sells drugs to be suspended, and possibly expelled. Expulsion requires a hearing before the school board.
It was not clear Wednesday whether any students beyond the nine have been suspended.
Parents and students expressed exasperation Wednesday that some initial media reports connected the cookie incident with the TEDx event, and pointed out the apparent irony of hundreds of students learning about ethical, productive life choices while a handful of others were consuming drugs in school.
Hunter, the high school senior, said most of the students who ate the cookies were sophomores. TEDx was held for juniors and seniors.
Hunter said no one in the auditorium was aware of the cookie situation.
One parent who was an organizer of the TEDx event said the cookie story received outsized media coverage.
"There were 423 people in that auditorium who were blown away," said Sara Lennon, a former town councilor. "Two days later, this pretty tawdry, not so monumental scandal (emerges) and it goes viral."
Jamie Wagner, a Cape Elizabeth town councilor who co-owns The Local Buzz, a cafe near the school, said the image of Cape Elizabeth as a wealthy community has in the past driven a fascination with its high school students who end up in trouble.
"There is a history of this," Wagner said, recalling the "Cape Ten" incident in 2008, when a senior prank caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the school.
"It was inflammatory," he said. "They say it's a rich town. There's a little bit of schadenfreude reporting on the Cape."
In his email to parents, Shedd did not dwell on the students' punishment.
"School is about learning," he wrote. "Some learning is more painful than others. We will welcome and support the students as they return from their suspensions."
Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: