Police were called to Hanover Elementary School in South Meriden Tuesday afternoon after a 4-year-old student was reportedly found to have nine bags of marijuana.
The boy, who police say is a student with special needs in a pre-kindergarten class, allegedly took out nine individually-wrapped bags of marijuana from his pocket at snack time, saying that "he had snacks," according to Meriden Police.
School officials' account of the incident differed slightly, saying the boy was reaching in his jacket pocket for a snack when the bags of marijuana fell out.
The boy's teacher was nearby, immediately saw the drugs, and notified Hanover's administrators, school officials said Tuesday.
"No other students were involved in this incident," Meriden Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni said in a 4:30 p.m. press conference at the school, saying that the teacher noticed what was going on before other students did. Hanover Principal Miguel Cardona reiterated that the incident was isolated and handled quickly by staff and police.
"Our concern is for the 4-year-old student who had no knowledge of what he was bringing to school," Benigni said. "The student is safe, and we will continue to ensure the safe learning environment for all our students."
School staff called Meriden Police and the Department of Children and Families to investigate, "And we will anxiously await those results," said Benigni, who lauded the teacher and principal for their treatment of the situation.
Police were dispatched to the school at about 1:15 p.m., where they met with the child's teacher who handed over the bags, which Police Spokesman Det. Lt. Mark Walerysiak said looked to officers as though it was portioned for sale.
Walerysiak said Tuesday afternoon that police did not yet know where the child obtained the drug. He said the Department of Children and Families and Meriden Police are both investigating.
The boy did finish his school day, according to Cardona, and apparently did not understand the gravity of what had occured. The school could not divulge other information about the child's family situation, he said.
When asked by a reporter at the conference how such an incident could happen at Hanover School, a well-regarded elementary school in the South Meriden subsection of town, Benigni said it was not a school issue but a societal issue.
"It's really a reflection of the greater society - how could something like this happen?" Benigni said. "This is a terrific school, we have excellent leadership, dedicated staff, terrific parent involvement. We're making significant progress on our standardized testing measures, ConnCann just labeled this school as a top 10 performer."
"This is a great place, I don't want anyone else to think differently. But this really is a reflection of society and some concerns we all should have about what we're exposing our young children to," Benigni said.
Tuesday's incident appears to resemble one in December, in which a allegedly dropped a marijuana cigarette into his young son's lunch. The "joint" was later found at a daycare in Clinton. The man is facing a misdemeanor drug charge and charges of risk of injury to a minor – a felony.
Parents of current and former Hanover students expressed both shock at the incident and support for the school and its staff on Meriden Patch's Facebook Page.
"This is not a reflection on the school," Amy-Jo Reid said on the site. "My daughter goes there and the school and teachers are great! It's the parents that are responsible..."
Hanover school will send out AlertNow phone messages Tuesday night to give parents information about the incident, Benigni said, and Cardona's office will be open to parents who want to discuss what happened.
"This isn't a student problem, or a children problem, this is clearly an adult issue," Benigni said. "I really feel for a student who still today probably doesn't know why he's dealing with authorities and all of this siuation and it's because some adult made a poor decision and jeopardized the safety of a student."
Last updated Tuesday 7:34 p.m.