As anyone from a small town knows, word travels fast in small circles. When everyone knows your name, they're able to recognize it in police blotters. That holds true in Antigo, Wisconsin, a city of about 8,000 people in Langlade County, where a high school football coach and former principal was arrested last month on drug charges. A retired special education teacher was also arrested and charged with 26 drug offenses.
The community has been shocked by the charges against the coach, who used to be the principal of two elementary schools before he was placed on leave in November, and the teacher, who also coached the football team. Both have been charged with several counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana. But they aren't the only school employees implicated. Four others are named in court documents and have been put on paid leave for similar offenses, and police said more charges could be coming.
News reports say the special education teacher admitted to buying a total of 15 pounds of marijuana over the last five years from a Milwaukee drug dealer, splitting and selling it or smoking it himself. Most or all of the alleged drug activity appears to be between school district co-workers and relatives, according to court documents.
Letters have been sent to parents of students at both schools the principal oversaw, leading parents and former students to draw their own conclusions about the charges. Some have wondered if the educators sold drugs at school, though no evidence of such activity exists. "It's surprising that the people at the high school who were always busting kids for drugs -- they were doing it, too," said one high school graduate. "It's pretty hypocritical."
It's not surprising that a drug bust would get a lot of attention in a small city. But because most of the suspects work with students, even if they're found not guilty, the case is likely to have a profoundly negative effect on their careers and personal reputation.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Drug arrests of teacher, principal shock small town," Jan. 29, 2012