A Liberty High School student who was playing hooky at a doughnut shop and was spotted by a teacher and escorted to the school got in deeper trouble when officials there searched his backpack.
The student, a 17-year-old who in March transferred to the Bethlehem school from New Jersey, was arrested around noon Thursday. Police said he had 285 packets of heroin and 43 of cocaine, with a street value of as much as $4,000.
“This is not a high school kid dealing drugs in school,” said Joseph J. Roy, superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District. “As a minor, he was being used by adults to transport drugs.”
The juvenile, whose name was not released, also had a bottle of codeine cough syrup, packaging materials and other drug paraphernalia with him, police said.
Roy said the quantity and the fact the drugs were packed in rice to absorb moisture suggest that the teen was transporting them for someone else.
Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio said Friday that authorities also believe the boy was likely trafficking drugs for someone else and that the investigation remains ongoing.
“For a 17-year-old to have that large of amount of drugs indicates he’s not the typical drug dealer on the street,” DiLuzio said. “Those dealers often have a bag or two to use and a bag or two to sell.”
DiLuzio said the drugs were found in a box.
He said the student was supposed to be in school when the teacher spotted him at the doughnut shop across Elizabeth Avenue from the school. After he was brought in, under school policy, that triggered an automatic search of his backpack.
“This was a good job by a good teacher,” DiLuzio said.
According to state police statistics compiled from police reports, 18 juveniles in Lehigh and Northampton counties were charged with dealing cocaine or opiates between 2012 and 2014. There have been two such cases in Northampton reported to state police this year and none in Lehigh.
Roy said the expulsion process has begun, but the teen — a 10th-grader — is subject to due process. However, Roy said, “He will not be returning to school.”
Roy said that in his experience, including 15 years as a principal, he has never seen a student carrying such a large quantity of drugs.
Police said the 17-year-old is being charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is being held in the Northampton County Juvenile Justice Center in Easton.
Authorities are conferring with the district attorney’s office to determine if the teen should be charged as an adult, DiLuzio said. He said police are also investigating whether the teen has any ties to gangs.