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An eighth-grader has been expelled and an 18-year-old medical marijuana patient - whose mom is his caregiver - faces a felony charge as a result of marijuana cookies allegedly being passed out to some middle-school students at DeSmet School last week.

Tyler Andre Pyle, 18, a student at Willard Alternative High School, appeared Thursday afternoon in Missoula County Justice Court on a charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.

In addition to the DeSmet student who was expelled, four other students were suspended for three days, DeSmet principal Joe Halligan said.

"It's been very shocking for me," Halligan said Thursday.

The allegations against Pyle began to unfold on March 8, when Halligan - who was at a conference in Helena - got a call from a DeSmet teacher who had "caught wind of somebody in the lunchroom distributing ‘special cookies,' " Halligan said. He immediately called the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.

The teacher said several students had eaten the cookies, according to an affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul. The teacher "observed the group of students acting ‘spaced out,' " the affidavit said.

More cookies were found in a 14-year-old student's locker; a test of the cookies indicated marijuana, according to the affidavit.

Halligan gave credit to the students who sounded the alert.

"We have great students. They told their friends, ‘Not in our school,' " he said.

On March 14, a Missoula County sheriff's deputy met with four DeSmet students who'd eaten the cookies and whose parents gave them permission to speak with him, according to the affidavit.

All told him they'd gotten the cookies from one student, who in turn told him that she'd gotten the marijuana-laced butter for the cookies from Tyler Pyle.

The girl "admitted she obtained the marijuana butter for the purpose of making the cookies and taking them to school ... (and) admitted that she had texted (Pyle) and requested the marijuana butter and that he delivered it to her, as requested."

A sheriff's deputy interviewed Pyle at Willard School Wednesday. After waiving his Miranda rights, Pyle told the deputy he gave the girl a jar with a little less than two sticks of marijuana butter.

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services, which maintains a registry of medical marijuana caregivers and cardholders, confirmed that Pyle is a patient.

His mother, according to the affidavit, is listed as his caregiver.

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DeSmet's Halligan said he met with all of the school's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about the incident.

"I didn't want to try and beat around the bush and sugar-coat things," he said. "I had a very real conversation with students and teachers about the seriousness of what's going on."

An emergency recommendation to expel the student who baked the cookies was sent immediately, he said, and on Wednesday night the school board voted to back it.

"There have been a number of situations I've had to deal with this year that caused me to lose sleep, and this is one," Halligan said. "It's going to have an impact on this child's life. But I'm not willing to compromise my own values that I have for this school."

Although he said the situation was unnerving, "I wasn't ever waffling back and forth. I knew in my gut what we needed to do."

Either way, his actions would set a precedent, he said, and he wasn't going to let that precedent be lenience.

Pyle faces far more severe consequences. Criminal distribution of dangerous drugs - in this case, selling marijuana to a minor - carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. Bail for Pyle was set Thursday at $2,500. He immediately bonded out of jail.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio @missoulian.com or on CopsAndCourts.com.

 

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