Monday, November 10, 2003

Op-ed of the day

Received via email...

Don't Kill the Kids!

The images are terrifying: a school surveillance video-tape shows uniformed police officers at a South Carolina high school pointing their guns at teenagers as they cower on the floor of a school hallway. Last Wednesday, police officers raided Stratford High School near Charleston, South Carolina, in response to concerns of the principal about possible drug activity.

Fourteen uniformed police officers, all with guns drawn, cordoned off a crowded hallway of the school as they conducted a search with drug-sniffing police dogs. Numerous students were handcuffed. No drugs were found. No weapons were found. The dog reportedly did detect possible residue of drugs in a dozen students' book bags. Goose Creek Police Lt. Dave Aarons told CNN that officers' guns were "drawn in a low-ready position", and that officers were ready to "address [any student] that made a poor decision."

Guns and school children don't mix. The courts generally grant great latitude to school officials in searching students for illegal contraband, but, the Supreme Court has noted time and again that public school students do not check their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. Proper police procedure dictates that scared children running in a school hallway does not justify the use of deadly force against the children by police officers. There comes a time when common sense should prevail over zealous law enforcement action and the "war" on drugs.

Philip M. Stinson, Sr.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Mr. Stinson, a former police officer and attorney, is an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice at Gibbs College.

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