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German police have charged three American students with marijuana possession after locking down Heidelberg High School and strip-searching nearly 40 students.

German police, with the help of U.S. Army military police, found a small amount of marijuana on the three boys during the search last Friday, said Harald Kurzer, a German police spokesman in Heidelberg. The students will face marijuana possession charges in a German court.

Although law enforcement officials said the school has had a recurring drug problem this school year, some parents have complained that the unannounced search went too far. Of the 40 students searched, many of them were taken to the bathroom, where they were stripped down to their underwear, German police officials said. Some were stripped naked.

One parent, who did not want her name published, said her daughter was strip-searched because she had to go to the bathroom during the lock down. Police searched students from 9:30 a.m. until almost noon.

“I just think it’s terrible,” the mother said. “I think it’s absolutely terrible this has happened. … I think they went too far.”

By German law, the police can legally strip search people suspected of possessing drugs underneath their clothes.

German Police Master Sgt. Sven Stadtrecher, a German police liaison officer to the U.S. military in Heidelberg, defended strip-searching as a routine procedure when looking for illegal drugs.

Stashing drugs in underwear is “the No. 1 hiding place next to shoes,” Stadtrecher said. And that’s where police said they found a small amount of marijuana on two of the three boys arrested.

If not for the strip search, Stadtrecher said, police probably would have never found the drugs.

Law enforcement authorities obtained a search warrant of the school after receiving information the school had drug problems. Police had also received a tip that drug deals were going down on school grounds.

“We take those tips very seriously,” Stadtrecher said.

Military police routinely use dogs to sniff out drugs at schools in surprise inspections. German police participated in the Heidelberg High School operation because under the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Germany, German police have jurisdiction over American civilians on and off post.

David Ruderman, a spokesman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, declined to comment on the arrests and referred questions to U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg, which referred questions to German police.

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