Student expelled in drug incident
By BRENDAN KIRBY
ROBERTSDALE - Baldwin County school officials moved swiftly Monday against students who drank an illegal mushroom tea on Friday, expelling the boy who brought the drug to his middle school and suspending eight others who either drank it or knew about it.
Central Baldwin Middle School Principal Ronnie Green said he expelled the eighth-grader who brought the psychedelic mushroom tea into school because of the serious danger his actions posed to the youths. The boy also faces criminal drug-possession charges, he said.
Five other students - a boy and four girls - drank the tea. Green said he suspended them for 10 days.
Three other girls who knew about the drug use but lied to school officials when questioned were suspended for five days, Green said.
The mushroom tea sent three students to the hospital on Friday afternoon. Although all have been released, the incident has raised concern among school officials about a drug that is easily available and was popular during the 1960s and 1970s.
But law enforcement authorities said hallucinogenic mushrooms are less frequently used than other kinds of illegal drugs.
Green said the expelled 15-year-old has had a record of discipline problems throughout the year. He said the boy drank the tea in the morning and then shared it with some of his classmates in the rest room between classes.
School administrators noticed a problem around 11:30 a.m. when one of the girls came to the office complaining she was sick and wanted to go home. She was acting "spacey" and asked where she was, Green said.
In a trash can, school officials found a fruit jar that contained the liquid. Green said administrators identified three girls who had not drank the liquid, but who knew about the situation.
We knew they knew about it, and they all pretty much lied," he said. Green said the campus routine was back to normal Monday, although he added that he plans to have counselors warn students of the dangers of psychedelic mushrooms and include the narcotic in the school's drug education program. Mushrooms were not previously included in the curriculum, he said.
"This is probably a one-time thing. It did scare some kids. I think we've seen the last of it. At least, I hope we have," he said.
Green said he does not know where the boy got the mushrooms, or where he learned to brew them into tea. A quick check of several Internet search engines shows numerous World Wide Web sites advertising how to grow psychedelic mushrooms.
The wild fungi grow naturally in cow manure throughout Alabama. The mushrooms contain hallucinogenic chemicals - psilocybin and psilocin - that cause effects similar to alcoholic beverages and LSD, according to experts.
Authorities said the wild mushrooms also can cause liver damage.
"The thing about this that concerns me ... this is deadly. This can kill you," said Baldwin schools spokesman Randy Davis. "We need to have kids understand what this can do."
Davis and others said reports of deaths dampened use of mushrooms about 25 years ago. He said Baldwin schools have seen little evidence of their popularity in recent times.
"The last time I saw mushrooms was in the '70s," said Green, who added that he is more concerned about prescription drugs and other substances available to students at home.
Baldwin County Sheriff's Lt. Lance Monley agreed psychedelic mushrooms are not as common as marijuana and other drugs, although he did say that farmers from time to time complain about trespassing teen-agers looking for mushrooms in their pastures.
"If you get the wrong mushroom, you'll have problems," said Monley, who heads the Baldwin County Drug Task Force.
Dameon Hutto, a forensic scientist in the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences' drug chemical section, said he does not know how often police find illegal mushrooms. But he said they rarely send them to the lab for analysis.
"I think I've seen it twice in four years," he said.
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College Student Arrested.
October 29, 2007
A Spring Hill college student was arrested and a dorm evacuated Monday afternoon. Police say the student had drug paraphernalia and was growing mushrooms in his room.
Spring Hill administrators say they got a tip from a student that drug activity was happening in Anthony Soscia's room.
O'Leary Hall was evacuated and a Hazardous Materials Unit was called in because originally, they thought there may have been a meth lab in the room. No meth lab was found. Police say Soscia was trying to grow the mushrooms. The mushrooms are being tested to see if other charges should be filed.