A pre-K student brought money and crack-cocaine to class today, prompting a drug sweep and many questions. NBC10's Deanna Durante has the story from Mifflin Elementary in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia police conducted a drug sweep at an elementary school after finding what they believe to be crack cocaine and large sums of cash in a 4-year-old's pockets.
Another preschooler at Mifflin Elementary noticed that a classmate had money, which turned out to be $173, in his pockets and alerted a teacher.
Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey, with the district's school safety unit, confirmed that they also found drugs in the boy's pockets.
"He knew he had something that was on his person," said Dorsey. "They told the teacher and then, you know, the child reached into his pocket and pulled out this quantity of narcotics."
The student handed his teacher eight zip lock bags that contained an "off-white chunky substance, alleged crack-cocaine," police said in a statement.
At that point, school administrators called police.
Inside the school, everyone in the pre-K class was moved out of their room and into the auditorium around 10:30 a.m. so they could bring in the police K-9 unit, according to Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district.
Outside the school in Philadelphia's East Falls neighborhood, parents and grandparents who live nearby heard news helicopters overhead. Some made their way back to Mifflin to discover a number of police cars parked outside, the drug-sniffing dog, narcotics detectives and school security.
"Oh wow," said Rhonda Smith as she learned what was going on. Her 10-year-old grandson attends Mifflin, along with an estimated 300 students that attend classes from pre-K to the 8th grade.
"Actually, this is a secure school. I don't know what to say... I'm just sad that that happened here."
Harry Carr contemplated whether to take his grandchild out of class, but wanted to learn more about the circumstances.
"You know, it seems like it's a sign of the times," Carr said. "It's sad though."
Jennifer Gallagher did pull her pre-K daughter out for the day, after seeing the news on Facebook.
"It's kind of disturbing. I called my husband and said, 'I'm going to go get her."
Temple University Psychologist Dr. Sue Cornbluth says parents should take the opportunity to sit down tonight and have a conversation with their children about drugs, even the 4-year-olds.
"Parents should have the conversation about the dangers of drugs at an early age. They should be told it is wrong to use drugs. It hurts your body and your brain. What happened at school today was scary. That little boy should not of had drugs or money with him today but we don't know why that happened. If someone ever asked you to sell drugs or carry money you say no and tell someone immediately. Parents should also tell their children that the 4 year old is not to be blamed for this."
The boy was taken to the hospital, as a precaution, to be checked out and reunited with his mother.
Police are interviewing the child's mother and say they also want to talk with a male friend of the family. Investigators plan to test the substance found in the boy's pockets. The school district plans to offer counseling to the boy.
"The child will be back. The child is a victim of the situation, wherever that situation is occurring." Gallard said.
Dr. Cornbluth said the incident was likely traumatic for the preschooler.
"The 4-year old is innocent in all of this. He does not cognitively know what he is doing. With that being said, he may be teased and that is where a teacher, principal or school counselor has to intervene," said Cornbluth.