It's all over the six o'clock news and wire services and Patch parents are writing with a cold fury after a bus caravan carrying teens from all three Lamorinda high schools and other parts of the Bay Area was stopped in Nevada and an impressive amount of drugs confiscated.
About 250 teens -- including several from Lamorinda schools -- were asked to step off their bus caravan at a rest stop in Elko, Nevada after witnesses spotted some members of the group smoking pot in the parking lot. A local sheriff responded, realized he had more kids than he could safely incarcerate, and settled for confiscating the drugs -- weighing in at nearly two pounds worth of Rocky Mountain High.
Local parents are not happy.
"I now know that the kids are being on lock down in their hotels because the media and reporters are outside of their Hotel in Utah," wrote the parent of a teen on the trip. "I am wondering why we as parents have not been notified of this occurrence. My 15 year old daughter is there and I am upset."
Each of the three local Lamorinda high schools had students on the trip, parents said, and 17 kids were sent home early after being interviewed by the tour bus operators.
"It's not as if we didn't know it was a party trip," said another parent. "The website is loaded with rap and pictures of partying kids."
College age chaperones the tour bus company said were on hand to make sure the kids stayed safe evaporated when the police showed up, witnesses said.
KRNV-TV in Reno first reported the contraband confiscation on late Tuesday. Elko Police Chief Don Zumwalt told the Associated Press things started with a store clerk's report that passengers were smoking in the parking lot of an Elko travel plaza near the interstate. The police chief estimated the group had been traveling for eight hours, and was about four or five hours from their destination -- Salt Lake City.
After police dogs sniffed marijuana in each baggage compartment of each of the caravan's five buses, Zumwalt said he realized he had a problem.
"We had 250 kids. I don't know if anyone was over 21," he said. "I could have written a citation and arrested them all and confiscated the buses. But logistically it would have been a nightmare. Who belonged to what? Where would we put them?"
The juvenile detention facility in Elko has 20 beds.
"Las Vegas or Reno police might have done things differently," Zumwalt told the AP. "But this is how we solved the dilemma. Rather than seize the buses and obtain search warrants, we said, 'Get all the stuff off the buses.'"
Nevada police said they are trying to contact officials with the tour operator, Summer Winter Action Tours, based in Costa Mesa, Calif. A website touts the trip, dubbed El Nino 2011, as a gathering of high school students from 67 schools in Los Angeles, Orange County, Temecula and Arizona, 27 schools in the San Diego area, and 40 schools in Northern California.
"I'm trying to hunt down who has ultimate responsibility," Zumwalt said.
And police are not alone in their search for the responsible party, apparently, as about ten local parents wrote or called Patch seeking information on the trip operators Thursday.