WATERVILLE — The mother of a 4-year-old girl who unknowingly brought marijuana to school in her backpack Thursday was not charged, but state officials are reviewing the case to determine if the child is being well cared for, according to police.
A teacher at Educare Central Maine smelled marijuana on the child’s backpack and handed it to another teacher who opened the front zipper and found a small amount of marijuana stems, Deputy police Chief Charles Rumsey said.
Educare, next door to George J. Mitchell elementary school, is an early childhood education program that serves children up to kindergarten age on Drummond Avenue.
Educare officials called police about 10:30 a.m. Thursday to report the discovery and an officer went to the school and seized it, Rumsey said. The child had returned home and police contacted her mother, who was vague about how the marijuana ended up in the backpack, he said.
“We were unable to gather any real useful information,” he said. “She said she and her 4-year-old were at a friend’s house, and she didn’t know the friend’s entire name or the address. While they were there, another man, known only to her by the nickname Roach, came over and was separating some marijuana — the smokable part — from the stems and seeds and that somehow the (stems) made it into the child’s backpack.”
Police consulted the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether it would be appropriate to charge someone with child endangerment or reckless conduct in the case, Rumsey said.
Police didn’t charge anyone, as the stems they seized probably did not have a high enough hallucinogenic content to be dangerous to the child, he said.
“We did, however, make a referral to DHHS (state Department of Health and Human Services) child protective services, and it’s a closed case at this point,” Rumsey said.
John A. Martins, DHHS’s director of public and employee communications, said in an email Friday that he could not comment on a specific case.
“But in any instance that impacts the safety and well-being of a child, DHHS would work with law enforcement and any other appropriate people or agencies to investigate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rumsey said police are concerned that the child was not being properly cared for by her parents.
“I think that it’s disappointing that we were not able to come up with a criminal charge against anyone,” Rumsey said, “because frankly, I think most people hearing about this story would agree that child was sent to school with marijuana in the backpack as a result of someone’s reckless behavior.”
Rumsey would not reveal the names of adults involved in the case, as no criminal charges were filed.
But he said Educare officials were concerned about the matter and cooperated fully with police.
“We were appreciative of their assistance and we’re glad that DHHS will follow up with the family, to the extent that they are able,” he said.