Highschool principal Newell pleads not guilty

Published on Thu, Feb 3, 2005 by eg Olson

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High school principal Newell pleads not guilty

By Meg Olson

Blaine high school principal Dan Newell has pled not guilty to gross misdemeanor charges of rendering criminal assistance and obstructing a law enfrorcement officer and a trial date has been set for August 4, according to Whatcom County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Mac Setter.

County prosecutors filed a criminal complaint in district court January 24 alleging Newell tipped off a 16-year-old Blaine high school student and Point Roberts resident under investigation for smuggling marijuana on the school bus.

The girl’s mother, Deb Hart, was a member of the school board and Newell called her anonymously to warn her of the 2003 investigation. When he did, court documents allege the mother kept the girl off the bus and eventually sent her out of state.

The girl and her boyfriend James Jarosz, now in jail on felony drug smuggling charges, began looking for other couriers to transport marijuana on the school bus.

In February 2004, a Point Roberts teenager was arrested as the school bus crossed the border in Blaine, with eight pounds of marijuana in her school bag.

Newell is on paid administrative leave until the matter is resolved, said Blaine school superintendent Mary Lynne Derrington. “When you don’t know guilt or innocence and you put someone on leave, you don’t stop paying them,” she explained. “That would presume they were guilty.”

The 16-year-old girl first arrested on the school bus has served 30 days in detention and will serve 60 hours of community service, also paying back the approximately $500 she earned through smuggling. Her mother holds no grudge against Hart and her daughter, who will not face charges because she cooperated with authorities. “She and her family were fortunate to have the social armor they did,” she said of the phone call from Newell, but she did wish her family had been extended the same courtesy.

She said she and other parents had approached Newell in January 2004 about concerns that drugs were being moved on the bus. “He said there was no problem,” she said. (According to the criminal complaint filed against Newell, law officers had informed him and other school officials of the particulars of the investigation in the fall of 2003 and that Newell had alerted Hart on December 2, 2003.)

She believes while investigators were “looking for the big bust,” local families were denied the tools they needed to talk to their kids. “Why not give us some official concern expressed by the school? Why did it have to go through the rumor mill?” she said.

With an effectively open border to the north she also worries the problem is destined to be perennial: adults using the lure of easy money to get Point Roberts kids to act as mules getting things across a tightening border on the mainland.

“The school needs to acknowledge the problem and law enforcement has to step up and play their part,” she said.