Three students have been asked to stay away from Joppatowne High School until authorities complete a criminal investigation into the unexplained death of an Edgewood girl who had been at a party with them.
"To calm the situation, the two young men and one young woman who were involved have been asked not to come back to school," said Harford County schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. The three were out of school all of last week.
He said the students were not suspended but would be allowed in school only if they are not charged in connection with the death last weekend of Tiffany Artina Fouts, 15, a Joppatowne sophomore.
Mr. Morrison said officials fear for the safety of the three students and others at the school, and parents have voiced concerns about their presence in school and rumors about the circumstances of Miss Fouts' death.
"We expect charges to be brought within the next week or so," Mr. Morrison said.
More than 60 students from Joppatowne High attended Miss Fouts' funeral yesterday at Glen Haven Cemetery in Glen Burnie, where she was buried in a school cheerleader's uniform.
"Her family said Tiffany was happiest as a cheerleader and FTC asked for a uniform for the burial. We were happy to give them one," Mr. Morrison said. Miss Fouts was a cheerleader last year.
She was found dead early Nov. 12 in a wooded area near the Harford Square townhouse on Charlestown Drive where the party was held the previous night.
Another boy who is not a county student and a 19-year-old man were at the party in the basement of the townhouse, and at least one other adult was in the house, said Sgt. Edward Hopkins, a spokesman for the Harford County sheriff's office. Sergeant Hopkins said the three are being questioned.
Alcohol was served, but it is unknown whether that was a factor in the death. Toxicology results from the autopsy have not been released.
A neighborhood resident said the body was partly clothed. Sergeant Hopkins would say only that the girl was not wearing a coat and that she could have died from exposure during the storm that swept the area with snow, sleet and freezing temperatures.
The cause of death remains undetermined, according to Harford State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, who said his office was continuing to gather information.
"We will probably present the case before the grand jury and then decide whether we have grounds to prosecute," Mr. Cassilly said.
A crisis team of eight guidance counselors and psychologists was at the school on Monday and counseled about 45 students, Mr. Morrison said. Another 10 students a day since then have asked to see a guidance counselor to discuss Miss Fouts' death.
The principal's removal of the three students is allowed under a regulation adopted this year by the state Board of Education for instances when a student is suspected of a crime or it is believed that a student's presence could compromise the safety and security of other students, said Charles A. Herndon, a school board spokesman.
"The main difference between this and a suspension is that a suspension shows up on the student's permanent record. There is no record made when students leave school at the principal's request," he said.