Incident at Goose Creek: Fallout Continues in Aftermath of High School Drug Raid 11/21/03

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The fallout continues over the raid at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina, earlier this month. The raid, in which Goose Creek police stormed a school hallway with guns drawn as they ordered cowering students to the floor, cuffing those who complied too slowly, caused a national furor as graphic videos from high school security cameras were shown repeatedly on national network television news programs.

No drugs were found during the raid, although the high school principal said he ordered the raid because of "increased drug activity" he thought he saw as he peered at the school's more than 70 security cameras. The principal added that he did not know police would conduct the raid with guns drawn.

The raid and subsequent uproar have caused rifts in Goose Creek, largely along racial lines. Although Stratford High School is predominantly white, the students assaulted by police during the raid were predominantly black. The South Carolina NAACP and the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project have both conducted meetings with aggrieved parents (mostly black) who say black students were targeted in the raid to plot legal strategies, while some white parents and faculty members have lined up in support of Principal George McCrackin and the Goose Creek police.

"The search seems to have been conducted in a part of the school frequented by African-American students who ride buses to school," the state NAACP chapter said in a news release. "There was no reported effort to search arriving personal vehicles, the predominant mode of transportation for white students."

That didn't seem to concern predominantly white parents and faculty who rallied in support of McCrackin and the raids earlier this week. Stratford High parent Robin Stout told the Spartanburg Times she supported the principal and the police 100%. "If I was going to place blame, it would have to be on the kids that have been bringing drugs to school," Stout said. "I wouldn't blame the school. I wouldn't blame the police department."

SSDP's Dan Goldman and a Stratford High parent
Outsiders who traveled to Goose Creek in the wake of the raid, including Loretta Nall of the US Marijuana Party (http://www.usmjparty.org) and Dan Goldman of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) commented on racial tensions in South Carolina, where issues such as the prosecution of poor black women for prenatal drug use and the long-simmering conflict over the state's Confederate-style flag, have long stirred the racial pot. "It's hard to believe there is anyplace more racist than Alabama," said Nall, a resident of that fine state, "but I found it here."

Both Goldman and Nall reported being harassed by angry white guys, but they also reported positive meetings with students and parents as they attempted to organize around the raid and related issues. The activist tag-team spent a busy week, they told DRCNet. "On Monday, I began passing out "Notice to Law Enforcement" t-shirts that have the 4th Amendment printed on the back," said Goldman. "They were a huge hit. I also passed out a bunch of "No More Drug War" stickers and kids immediately began putting them on their cars and on themselves."

Goldman and Nall also copied and made available materials like the "Racism and the Drug War" section of Common Sense for Drug Policy's "Drug War Facts" (http://www.drugwarfacts.org) which they passed out to dozens of interested parents and students, as well as attending an NAACP-sponsored meeting on the issue that same night.

"I reminded them that they have the support of hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the country who share their outrage and that although this is going to be a long, hard battle ahead, they can count on SSDP and the broader drug reform community for support," said Goldman.

By Tuesday, students were wearing the "Notice to Law Enforcement" t-shirts to schoo,l and others were asking where they could get theirs, Goldman said. "I am happy to report that no student got in trouble for wearing the provocative but politically-protected attire," Goldman said.

Goldman got in some trouble, though -- when visiting the school campus to hand out stickers and literature from SSDP, Drug Policy Alliance and Flex Your Rights, two teachers first accused him of trespassing but then offered to take him to see Principal McCrackin -- an offer Goldman accepted with enthusiasm. McCrackin, as it so happened, had police officers with him in his office, and neither he nor they seemed to like the information at all. At one point McCrackin asked him who [Flex Your Rights founder] Steven Silverman was; at another point one of the officers told him he was being detained. (Lawsuit in the offing?)

Angry parents and "outside agitators" like Goldman and Nall are not the only ones protesting the raids. Berkeley County Superintendent of Schools Chester Floyd repudiated the police tactics last week. "I don't believe these particular tactics are acceptable," he told a public meeting. "I am sure that everyone is going to learn some lessons from this," he said.

And two of the state's leading newspapers, the State and the Charleston Post and Courier, have weighed in as well. "We support the goal of a drug-free environment for the teen-agers studying in high schools around our state," wrote a State editorialist. "We back the parents, educators and law enforcement officers who strive each day for an orderly, lawful and safe school environment. So there is no way we can back last week's armed incursion into Berkeley County's Stratford High School."

The Post and Courier, for its part, has editorialized on the topic twice since the raid two weeks ago. "The passage of a week has failed to quell complaints about a drug raid at Stratford High School, as witnessed by the public response at a school board hearing," the newspaper editorialized. "Small wonder. Most parents would be understandably irate over having police hold their children at gunpoint. They should be gratified to hear the Berkeley County School District superintendent say that it won't happen again. They should hear it from the school board as well."

Time will tell. The school district is reconsidering its policies, the Goose Creek police department has begun an internal investigation, and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is now two weeks into its estimated two-month investigation. And the parents, the NAACP, and the ACLU are contemplating lawsuits.

Visit http://www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2313.html for online video footage of the raid.

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Issue #312, 11/21/03 Editorial: One Step Too Far | Harsh New Drug Bill About to Be Introduced in House | Jamaica: Ganja Decrim is Moving Again | Incident at Goose Creek: Fallout Continues in Aftermath of High School Drug Raid | DRCNet Interview: Youth Sociologist Mike Males | Call Campaign Targets Congressmen Voting Against Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Methamphetamine Labs Are Not Weapons of Mass Destruction, North Carolina Judge Rules | Newsbrief: California Judge to Run for Senate on Legalization Platform, Libertarian Ticket | Newsbrief: Mexico City's Top Prosecutor Goes Off the Reservation -- Talks Legalization While Fox Government Vows Loyalty to Drug War | Newsbrief: California to Quit Sending Parolees Back to Prison Over Drug Tests | Newsbrief: Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative -- Again | Newsbrief: Filipino Senator Calls for Firing Squads in Continuing Escalation of Drug War Rhetoric | Newsbrief: Reform Judaism National Body Endorses Medical Marijuana | Media Scan: Jack Cole of LEAP on Cultural Baggage Radio Show Next Week | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar
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