Students charged after driver smells pot on bus

COVINGTON - Two students face charges after the driver of a Newton County school bus reported smelling the odor of burning marijuana on the bus ride home Monday afternoon.

According to Lt. Mark Mitchell of the Newton County Sheriff's Office, two male students were initially arrested because of their behavior toward the deputies who spoke to them on the bus. In the course of the investigation, however, less than 1 ounce of marijuana was found on one of the students, Mitchell said, and he faces an additional charge.

Newton County School System Director of Public Relations Sherri Viniard said in an e-mail Wednesday that transportation department officials contacted the Sheriff's Office after a bus driver reported that he thought he smelled marijuana on the bus, and a deputy met the bus and driver at the service center on Bypass Road.

Viniard said the bus was searched and no drugs were found. However, two students were removed from the bus based on their behavior toward the officer and the bus continued its route.

"Two different students were very belligerent toward the officer and both those students were arrested," Mitchell said. "After they were arrested it was later found that one of the individuals had marijuana on his person and was arrested and charged for it."

The bus was identified in an incident report as No. 20-77.

According to Mitchell, 19-year-old Cordell Coryall Hardeman, 8113 Puckett St., has been charged with obstruction or hindering a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct, and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce.

The other suspect, a 16-year-old male whose identity was withheld due to his status as a juvenile, faces charges of obstruction of a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct.

All of the charges are misdemeanors.

"Newton High School administrators are still investigating the incident and disciplinary action is pending," Viniard added.

In other news, Brandon Phillip Lawson, 17, Beaver Run Road, was charged by the Sheriff's Office with having weapons in a school safety zone.

According to Viniard, Newton High School administrators received a tip March 25 concerning a student with possible drugs in his vehicle. Viniard stated in an e-mail that the car was searched and brass knuckles, a pocket knife and cigarettes were found.

Viniard added that the 11th-grade student is being disciplined according to rules published in the student handbook.