, Newburyport, MA

April 9, 2013

Student charged with using social media to sell drugs

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — WEST NEWBURY — A Pentucket High School student is facing drug and alcohol charges after police say she was selling prescription drugs to her fellow students using the mobile photo messaging service Snapchat earlier this month.

Noelia Davis, 17, was removed from classes Friday after being charged with possession of a class B substance to distribute, a school zone drug violation and minor in possession of alcohol. She is expected to appear at Newburyport District Court in the near future to answer for those charges, according to police.

According to West Newbury police, Davis used Snapchat, a social media tool that allows people to take photos and then send them to others via the Web, to alert her classmates she was selling her own prescriptions. Police identified the drugs as citalopram, an anti-depressant, and methylphenidate, a drug used to combat hyperactivity more commonly known as Ritalin.

West Newbury Sgt. Jeffrey Durand said the mother of one of Davis’ classmates saw a Snapchat message advertising the sale of her drugs and alerted the high school’s Vice Principal David Evans. Evans then called police who came to the Main Street campus.

“She had stuff on her when we grabbed her,” Durand said.

At the time of her apprehension, Davis also possessed a bottle of pink lemonade containing vodka, according to police.

Davis likely thought her messages wouldn’t be intercepted by parents, as Snapchat messages disappear after a maximum of 10 seconds. Durand said it is unknown how the parent was able to prove the existence of the messages to Evans. Many cellphones have the ability to take photographs or snapshots of a screen that would allow people to maintain a record of Snapchat messages.

Snapchat is becoming an increasingly popular tool for teenagers and younger adults to send sexually explicit photos of themselves to others, knowing in theory that the images are fleeting and will no longer exist a few seconds later. But in recent months, reports in various online tech sites show ways to circumvent a message’s short life span and keep them permanently.

School Superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen said he and administrators work with parents on a regular basis in regard to the possible pitfalls of social media tools, including the distribution of periodic bulletins about issues that may arise over social media use among students.

Mulqueen wouldn’t confirm whether Davis was suspended from school, saying only that administrators followed appropriate guidelines as written in the school’s student handbook. But Mulqueen did say that it is fairly typical for students to be suspended from school should they violate drug, violence or other policies.

According to the 2012-2013 student handbook, students can be suspended for fighting, direct insubordination to persons in authority, willfull destruction of school property, causing a disturbance and other such reasons, which interrupt the education of other students, as determined by the school administration.

West Newbury police Chief Lisa Holmes said students are allowed to bring prescription drugs for the own use into the school, the only requirement being they notify the school’s nurse. Above and beyond the obvious concern of selling drugs within school grounds, Holmes said she was doubly worried that students may not have any idea what kind of side-effects these drugs could have caused.

“It could cause serious harm to them,” Holmes said.