Newsbrief: Heartland Hysteria -- Bag of Dirt Gets First Grader Punished as Doper 2/18/05

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/375/bagofdirt.shtml

One of the noxious side-effects of prohibition is the unthinking application of its edicts. In the name of "drug-free schools," administrators, school boards, and law enforcement routinely subject students to "lock-downs" where drug-sniffing dogs roam the halls and classrooms. They increasingly resort to urine testing of students without cause. And they create policies designed to punish students who would bring banned substances to school.

Even when implemented thoughtfully and flexibly, anti-drug measures that treat students as de facto "suspects" are dehumanizing, not to mention ineffective. But when implemented robotically by overzealous police and school officials entranced by the doctrine of "zero tolerance," drug prohibition's totalitarian tendencies produce results that would be laughable if they were not such a sad reflection on the society that produced them.

A case in point comes from Sikeston, MO, where 6-year-old Michaela Boyd is now enshrined in school district records -- and the mind of at least one local police officer -- as a drug offender. According to KFVS-TV "Heartland News" in the southeast Missouri town, young Boyd found an empty baggie on the ground during recess, filled it with dirt and debris, tied a ribbon around it, and gave it to a friend. But this was no harmless childish exchange in the eyes of school officials, who decided the bag of dirt looked like a bag of marijuana, and gave the child a punishment of two-days in detention for her alleged pseudo-pot peddling.

Young Michaela protested her innocence. "There was nothing in the bag. I just found it on the ground," the first grader explained. So she decided to make her friend a bag of goodies. "They said what did you make this out of? I said out of dirt. And what else? I made it with rocks, clover and dirt." Sticking with her story, Michaela said she then tied the bag shut with a purple ponytail holder and gave it to her friend, saying "here's a bag of dirt."

According to the child's mother, Michele Boyd, the trouble started when the recipient of the gift bag gave it to a teacher when recess when over. The teacher consulted the principal, and mom got a call. At a meeting with the teacher and principal, Boyd said, she was told the bag of dirt "looked like a bag of weed."

"They said it was kind of a drug," Michaela said. "I don't know what those are. I only see cigarettes. That's all I say."

Michele Boyd fears her daughter will be labeled a doper. "They said it would be on her school record as far as disciplinary that she made a look-alike drug, but I don't feel like that's right. Because she didn't do anything wrong."

While most people would probably roll their eyes at this ludicrous tale, Sikeston Police Sgt. Shirley Porter is not one of them. In a follow-up story on "Heartland News" a few days after the big bust, Porter said the case needs to be taken seriously. In Porter's eyes, 6-year-old Michaela Boyd was dealing fake drugs, and that's a crime. "If she would have been 14, we would have been arrested her and taken her to jail," Porter said.

-- END --
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Issue #375 -- 2/18/05

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