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The Big Drug Bust

In the war on drugs, the guns are aimed at the wrong targets.

Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 by David E. Ross

The United States has long been concerned about the problem of illegal drugs. Now, perhaps, we have become too concerned. Not only do we have to piss in a cup to get a job, not only have employers put hidden video cameras in toilets, but now a six-year-old child has been suspended from elementary school in Colorado Springs (CO) for dealing in lemon drops.

School officials explained that they automatically suspend any student found with an unrecognizable substance and they did not recognize the candies for what they were. Does that mean any student found with cafeteria food — unidentified frying object — will be suspended?

What happened to innocent until proven guilty? This should apply to candy, too. The war against drugs has gone beyond too concerned and has reached the level of stupid hysteria. In the meantime, Taylor Elementary School in Colorado Springs has taught a lesson that really does not belong in the curriculum.

20 November 1997

In Saugus (CA), Tyler Hagen — a student at Arroyo Seco Junior High School — did the right thing. A "friend" gave him a small bag of marijuana and asked Tyler to dispose of it. Instead, Tyler gave it to his mother who promptly notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff. We need more actions like Tyler's and his mother's if we want our schools to be a drug-free environment for learning.

For heeding the anti-drug lesson about establishing and maintaining communication between parents and children, however, Tyler's reward has been suspension from school! The school district's policy requires that Tyler give the marijuana to a school teacher or administrator. Tyler violated that policy.

As a former school board member, I understand and support the concept of clear and objective school policies that are consistently enforced, especially when those policies relate to student behavior. However, in Saugus, the policy seems to put a higher priority on control and "turf" than on fighting drugs. The policy seems designed to protect the school from any adverse publicity that might arise if outside law enforcement became involved. After all, if Tyler had gone directly to the Sheriff's Department instead of his mother, he would still have violated the policy and would have been suspended. This is a very bad policy that teaches the lesson that jurisdiction is more important than a drug-free school.

No, I do not think Arroyo Seco Junior High School should relax its enforcement of anti-drug policies. The problem here is larger than mere enforcement. The policy itself is wrong and needs to be changed. Any student who brings illegal drugs to the attention of law enforcement — whether through a teacher, parent, or directly to the Sheriff — has done the right thing. The policy must be changed to reflect this concept if we truly want drug-free schools.

8 May 1999

For a commentary about the foolish injustice of zero-tolerance laws and rules, today's Los Angeles Times used the headline "No Judgment + No Discretion = Zero Tolerance". Being a mathematician by education and a computer software professional by experience, this equation seems to read better turned around, with the result on the left and the formula on the right:

Zero Tolerance = No Judgment + No Discretion

It also has more impact this way, making me think that the battle cry for the war on drugs should be "Take no prisoners!"

17 January 2000

Drug Sweep at South Carolina High School Sparks Investigation

Officers drew weapons and handcuffed students but found nothing. Outraged parents say police went overboard.

From Associated Press
November 9, 2003

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. — State police are investigating a drug sweep in which more than a dozen local officers charged into a crowded high school hallway with their guns drawn and handcuffed students.

No drugs or weapons were found during the sweep, and there were no drug-related arrests.

Videotape from Stratford High School surveillance cameras on Wednesday shows dozens of students, some of them handcuffed, sitting on a hallway floor against the walls as police officers watch them with guns drawn and police dogs sniff backpacks and bags strewn across the hall.

From the Los Angeles Times

To repeat, No drugs or weapons were found.

9 November 2003

NOTE: For two terms (eight years), David Ross was an elected member of the school board of Oak Park Unified School District, one of the finest school systems — public or private — in California.

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