Guns in school

Gun-wielding police officers and their dogs raided a Charleston-area high school in search of drugs. Police forced all the students in one area of the school to the ground, handcuffed those who didn’t obey quickly, had dogs sniff their book bags and searched everyone. They found nothing. Except a bunch of students who’ll never feel safe in school again.

Instapundit has more links including video of the raid. The principal says the cops were searching for marijuana.

Update: Since the suspects were on videotape, it would have been simple to get warrants to arrest them, rather than treating every student as guilty until proven innocent.

A Charleston Post & Courier story (requires registration) says the raid occurred at 6:45 am, after buses from black neighborhoods had unloaded but before most white students had reached school. Two-thirds of students detained at gunpoint and searched were black. Stratford High has eager beaver dealers, if they’re in school at dawn. I guess the early bird gets the drug sale. Of course, it may explain why not a single student searched was carrying drugs or a weapon or any other contraband.

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Comments

  1. Heads should roll but they won’t

  2. Heads should roll but they won’t

  3. jeff wright says:

    Your tax dollars at work. All of you law-and-order types, take heed.

  4. Hey, I am one of those law-and-order types, and I still think this is monstrous. Shame on that principal. I have no problem with targeted efforts to clean drugs out of schools, but these kind of blanket sweeps paint everyone with the same filthy brush.

  5. As mentioned on Instapundit, how incompetent do you have to be to not be able to find ANY drugs at a high school?

  6. In some sense, this story is a nice counterpoint to the one a few weeks back about the “Dark Side” of homeschooling.
    http://www.joannejacobs.com/mtarchives/013388.html

  7. Give me a break, the officers were just doing their jobs. The only reason they were there was at the request of the principal. For three weeks the police had watched on CCTV students selling drugs. The police are pretty sure the students were tipped off about the raid. Plus, it is standard procedure to have weapons drawn when drug raids are done since you can almost put money on the fact that where there is drugs, there are weapons.

  8. I present to you a mini-fisking of the above comment:

    Give me a break, the officers were just doing their jobs.

    So were SS troopers. Okay, okay, the whole compare-something-to-Nazism gambit is old hat – so sue me.

    The point is, just because someone is doing their job doesn’t mean that they’re doing what’s right (or even what’s legal). Just because a police officer specifically does something doesn’t mean that it’s within the confines of the law.

    The only reason they were there was at the request of the principal.

    This does not make what happened right; school administrators are not infalliable. And further, it directly contradicts your next statement:

    For three weeks the police had watched on CCTV students selling drugs.

    If this is a true statement, then 1) the police should have been there of their own volition, not because the principal requested their assistance, and 2) the police should have arrested the students who were selling drugs (since they saw them on the video), rather than detaining a random group of students who happened to be in a hallway. Period.

    The police are pretty sure the students were tipped off about the raid.

    Maybe the students wouldn’t have been tipped off about the raid if the police hadn’t barged into the school with weapons drawn and had instead made discreet arrests of the guilty parties…

    Plus, it is standard procedure to have weapons drawn when drug raids are done since you can almost put money on the fact that where there is drugs, there are weapons.

    When the police are raiding a crackhouse, yes, it is. However, when police are entering a school – an area where most people are both innocent and unarmed – then this is most certainly not standard procedure.

    Further, it is absolutely not standard procedure to detain large groups of effectively random people and search them for contraband; doing so directly goes against the 4th Amendment.

  9. Whit,

    Congratulations!
    I’ve heard John Aschroft wants to give you a job…
    he’s looking for a few good men (most invariably, men) who can so cavalierly disregard civil rights…

  10. I missed where Ashcroft had anything to do with this.

  11. Laura…

    It was a joke… poking fun at
    the John Aschcroft and the Patriot Act…

  12. Stupid-ass drug raids long predated Ashcroft and will almost certainly follow him. The Patriot act has nothing to do with this; so again, where’s the joke?

    It sounded to me like a typical left-wing diversion tactic.

  13. Gotta agree, contra-Jab.

    Think PATRIOT is bad (based on actual abuses or actual readings of the law, not “so-and-so said it’s bad”)? Blame Congress first, and the guy tasked with using the law second.

    It’s fair to blame Justice (and to some extent, I think, Treasury) for PATRIOT to some extent, since it’s the Federal Law Enforcement Wish-List, but to ignore Congress and blame Head Scapegoat Ashcroft as if he imposed it by force of will? It’s just not particularly funny, in the same way that “BuSSh” isn’t funny, though not in degree.

  14. Nick Blesch,
    Nice job attacking Whit’s ideas. You made many of the points I would have made, only much better.

    Mark Odell and jab,
    I tend to disagree with Whit’s viewpoint but why do you want to cast dispersions on him? Would it really hurt to try and argue facts and hold off on the snide comments? You both post a lot of very reasonable arguements and you both are highly intellegent and analytical. I enjoy reading your points of view. However, it is disappointing when you misuse your keen intellect to belittle others.

    Regards,

  15. PJ/Maryland says:

    I guess I’ll go along with Michael, and let the cops carry their guns into the school. Even though I expect that’s prohibited; we all know what happens to kids who bring toy guns, or have a real one in the trunk of their car.

    That said, I don’t see any reason why the cops should have their guns drawn. Were they actually expecting a shootout? (And if so, why were they attempting to make arrests at a school, where large numbers of kids could get hurt?)

  16. The gun-toting police didn’t find any drugs or weapons this time. If the accusations of possible armed, drug-dealing students are true, does anyone want to bet that such students will now leave their weapons at home? It seems to me that the police have just dramatically increased the chance of armed students in the hallways. In addition, they have increased the chance that a student, traumatized by being held at gunpoint in the school hallway before homeroom, will swipe his uncle’s gun and bring it to school, trying to feel “safer.”

    The law-and-order sentiment in some of these comments is very hearty, but please take the police claims, made after the failed raid, with a grain of salt. By their own admission, the police saw NOTHING on the tapes. The article cited Lt. Dave Aarons of the Police Department thus, “Police monitored video from school surveillance cameras for several days and “observed consistent, organized drug activity,” he said. “Students were posing as lookouts and concealing themselves from the cameras.” ”

    For crying out loud, assuming they used school video cameras, the students know where the cameras are, and one can logically assume that students conceal a great deal of forbidden behavior from Big Brother. Out of the camera’s view, the students could have been smoking tobacco, they could have been sharing sexist magazines, they could have been swapping asthma inhalers, and they could have been dealing drugs, but while the list of possible misdemeanors may be long, it is mere speculation. The police had a student complaint about drug sales, but they didn’t have any other proof, in my opinion. They certainly didn’t have enough proof for an arrest warrant, so they chose to burst into a school with weapons drawn.

    People have been shot by mistake before. Having one’s weapon drawn increases the chance that that might happen. The police chose to place every child and teacher present in danger.

  17. …could have been sharing sexist magazines…

    What, like Maxim? 😀

  18. jeff wright says:

    I usually like Michael Lopez’s stuff, but I think he’s a little off base here. Teenaged minds being what they are, I know that if they’d had surveillance cameras when I was in high school, we would have ensured that the administrators got really tired of viewing hours of tapes crammed full of “suspicious activity.”

    I don’t have a problem with the police being armed. It’s usually law or at least policy. No defensible reason that I can see for the weapons being drawn, though.

    If the police and the school are intent on carrying off big drug busts, they might want to consider having a little better intelligence (and operational security). I know if I were the police chief, it would be a cold day in hell before I ever trusted that principal again. All in all, not a good message for current and future taxpayers. Few hearts and minds were won this day.

    Maybe Michael can also enlighten us as to just what constitutes “drug activity.” As opposed to “drug dealing.” Or “using.”

  19. It’s not just that police had guns in their holsters. They drew their guns and pointed them in the general direction of students, who were made to lie on the floor. This may be normal procedure when raiding a crack house. This is a school populated by children only a few of whom are suspected of any illegal activity. Some students were handcuffed. All were sniffed by dogs and searched. I can’t believe this is normal police procedure or legal.

  20. I suspect you’ve got an overly-suspicious principal with delusions of god-hood who sees ‘evil little druggies’ everywhere. Unfortunately, it sounds like he either suckered the police into this, or else has a ‘soul brother’ in charge of the police force who shares his same attitudes toward ‘the little b*****s’.

    Don’t blame the individual police officers necessarily. They may have been told, or even ordered, to have guns drawn. Without more detailed information, you can’t really say, and I prefer to give our law enforcement folks the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.

    If I were in these kids’ place, I’d probably have played all sorts of games with the surveillance cameras to yank the principal’s chain. In fact, I remember doing something of the sort (without the cameras) – – Take one hyper-paranoid German nun who excels at making life h*** on earth, add a couple of sets of identical twins in identical Catholic school uniforms, a few co-conspirators to aid in the deception, and you can give an uber-educator a nervous breakdown real quick. Shipped her off to the nuns’ retirement home real fast…. Apparently teaching us was her assigned penance for her sins; we didn’t see any reason why we had to do penance, too, for HER sins…..

  21. jeff wright says:

    > “Drug activity” would be certain types of hand signals, lookout patterns, patterns of people coming to a particular place and leaving shortly thereafter.

    Michael, ever hear of habeas corpus? Such activity as you describe would be used as an indicator of a crime, but it is also nice to get evidence. In essence, this full-scale assault was a fishing expedition. Is that what you want in our schools?

    These guys blew it. And the whole country knows it. Law enforcement is ultimately political. Imagine how the mayor feels right about now.

  22. “Calling the police to deal with real crime is the right thing to do.”

    Yeah, but instead they come in with guns blazing over frigging drugs.

  23. All right, guns “drawn”, not “blazing”

  24. As it turns out, there were no tips or reports about students carrying guns in school. Drugs, yes. But not guns. The police said that they assumed that where there are drugs there also are guns.

  25. jeff wright says:

    Well, Michael, a discussion on the Constitution would no doubt be enlightening and I’m confident you’d teach me a few things. However, my principal point was not the constitutionality or legality of what happened to those kids, but rather whether it was right. Clearly the police intrusion was legal—after all the “owner” of the premises invited them in—but terrorizing kids, especially when you don’t find anything, is not the best PR. The searches of the kids may also be suspect. My point was and is that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do and I wish our law enforcement agencies would think a little bit before they do such things.

    Moreover, given the fact that certain kids of color were obviously targeted, I can’t think of a better recipe for widespread opprobrium for the police department and the principal, not to mention the cost to the taxpayers when the lawsuits start rolling in.

    Defend the cops and the principal all you want, but the key question I posed was, “Is that what you want in our schools?”

  26. But there isn’t a “systemic drug problem” at the school – unless you count one kid with some prescription pills as a “systemic drug problem.”

    Are there other kids with drugs at the school? Sure, probably are. But there are probably people with drugs at your office, people with drugs in your apartment building, etc, etc, etc, and the LAST thing I ever want to see is random police shakedowns with guns drawn.

    You may say it’s better than “systemic drug testing” on your blog; this is true. But then, to use my time-honored example, a punch in the stomach is better than a kick in the groin. How about the police don’t do systemic drug testing (which, I might add, is completely illegal) AND the police don’t do systemic shakedowns looking for whatever evidence of crimes they can find? Wouldn’t that be even better?

  27. jeff wright says:

    Michael Lopez: “There are a lot of ways to deal with systemic drug infestation. I happen to think that a properly timed and executed police raid is actually the best way to deal with it. Discover where the drugs are, and then sweep the area and make arrests.”

    O.K., Michael, now we know where you stand on the issue. But we’ve seen no evidence of a “systemic” drug problem at this particular school and of course no arrests were made. Further, based on news reports, this does not appear to be the type of school popularized in movies such as “The Principal.”

    I’m confident that the state investigation will unearth the underlying facts. I think what you and all of the other law enforcement buffs need to consider is just what a damaging blow this is to that particular police department as well as to law enforcement in general. The cops may end up winning this battle, but they’ll have a hard time winning the war. Further, this is going to turn out to be messy in that community, yet again highlighting a black-white law enforcement issue.

    After reviewing the initial report of this incident, I have to question the “guns drawn” decision even more. Faculty members were deployed to help secure the area. So the cops had unarmed, good guys in the area—in harm’s way, if there was any shooting—serving as auxiliaries. You can read that one of two ways. Either the police didn’t care about the safety of the faculty members, or they didn’t believe there was any danger involved in their presence. Law Enforcement 101: Get innocent people out of harm’s way. And of course, if there was no danger, why draw the firearms?

    Either way, the police lose. Too bad. We need them.

  28. Couple things:

    First, Michael — every high school has a “systemic drug problem,” if by that you mean, “kids who do drugs.” If the presence of drugs in a school justifies policing pointing guns at kids and illegally searching them, then that’s justified at every school. And still, they found no drugs. That’s how miniscule the “drug problem” at this school is.

    And Jeff — I doubt the searches were legal. The principal is not the “owner” of the school — it is a public school, and students are not subject to random searches with no evidence of wrongdoing.

  29. jeff wright says:

    Actually, Steve, I put the word “owner” in quotes for a reason. It is clearly within a principal’s rights to invite the police in if he thinks there is a threat to safety or if a crime is taking place. So moronic actions on the part of school officials are not necessarily illegal.

    The search of the students is an entirely different matter and if you will reread my post, you will see that I termed it “suspect.” I did that because I’m not entirely clear on just which civil liberties kids give up when they’re on school grounds. I do know school officials can search backpacks, etc., if they suspect the presence of contraband. As to a random search of kids by police, the fact is I just don’t know. As may be seen by my posts, I don’t believe it should have happened and I don’t think it’s right, but I also know that our schools are a whole separate society, with their own rules. Who’s to say a court somewhere hasn’t said this is O.K., because, after all, it’s just kids? Surveillance cameras are O.K. Why not searches?

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m just happy I’m not a taxpayer in this jurisdiction. That’s who will ultimately pay.

  30. Mark Odell says:

    Ross wrote: I tend to disagree with Whit’s viewpoint but why do you want to cast dispersions on him? Would it really hurt to try and argue facts and hold off on the snide comments? You both post a lot of very reasonable arguements and you both are highly intellegent and analytical. I enjoy reading your points of view. However, it is disappointing when you misuse your keen intellect to belittle others.

    Ross, many thanks for your constructive feedback.

    If you’ve read (most of) my other posts, you’ll note that I do strive to stick to the facts and not to bring personalities into it. In this instance, I asked three questions, none of which are rhetorical (Whit may answer), and made (AFAIK) precisely one “snide comment”, and left it until last; I prefer to do it that way just to drive home the harpoon ;-).

    In any event, it isn’t as though Whit hasn’t been given an opportunity to respond on his/her own behalf.

    Laura wrote: I missed where Ashcroft had anything to do with this.

    Some might consider this a stretch, but I suppose one could argue that John “Phantoms Of Lost Liberty” Ashcroft‘s staunch defense of the so-called USAPATRIOT Act created that famous “climate of hostility” towards constitutional rights, and that this “greased the skids” for “law-enforcement” officers to believe that they can ignore, with impunity, pesky little inconveniences like the Fourth Amendment.

    Sigivald wrote: Think PATRIOT is bad (based on actual abuses or actual readings of the law, not “so-and-so said it’s bad”)? Blame Congress first, and the guy tasked with using the law second.

    It’s fair to blame Justice (and to some extent, I think, Treasury) for PATRIOT to some extent, since it’s the Federal Law Enforcement Wish-List, but to ignore Congress and blame Head Scapegoat Ashcroft as if he imposed it by force of will?

    Force of will; deception; one way’s as good as another to get “the Federal Law Enforcement Wish-List” enacted, with no one the wiser until it’s too late. (Or is it?)

    Congress was stampeded into passing it without review, but Justice/Treasury originated it. Without that, there would have been nothing for Congress to pass.

    Ashcroft himself may not bear full responsibility for the so-called USAPATRIOT Act (AKA “that unconstitutional fascist piece of $h1+”)–that’s down to Ashcroft’s boss, and his masters–but, as Attorney General of the United States, sworn to uphold the Constitution (AKA “the supreme Law of the Land”), he tolerates it, and then presumes to lecture the rest of us about “phantoms of lost liberty”. Why? Do we have two Constitutions (one for peacetime, and another one in time of war) or just one? IMCO, anyone in government who presumes to lecture us about “phantoms of lost liberty” bears the burden of demonstrating convincingly, using reasoned arguments based on facts and logic, that such fears are in fact unfounded. (Ashcroft has, so far, not proven his case. Quite the reverse.)

  31. So you would agree with this type of raid in any school where drugs are being sold?

  32. Lockes Thoughts says:

    I’m with Michael. This is perfect training for the totalitarian state that he prefers to students having a mind-bending experience.

    Good heavens. Let’s not teach children anything except to be submissive “good citizens”. Double plus ungood if you ask me.

    Heaven forbid they should get their hands on something like alcohol.

    Guns drawn. At children.

    Pfui. What is that document called again? No, not the Bill of Rights. The Decl…Declar, I can’t remember.

  33. I am truly amazed at the attitudes that I have read, because of all the belly aching and crying I have heard about how “unsafe” our schools are these days. Make up your minds people, you can’t have it both ways. “Either you karate do, or you karate don’t. You karate maybe, then squish just like grape.” And yes I am related to Michael.