Police State Rules in NJ High Schools

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On the morning
of Friday, October 12, 2007, Steinert High School in Hamilton Township,
New Jersey, was flooded by police with five drug-sniffing dogs accompanied
by a prosecutor and school officials. The whole student body was
arrested by being detained in various classrooms and forced to wait
while the search of their lockers verified that each student was
innocent of drug possession. Every locker got searched. And
every student was under technical arrest until cleared of drug possession,
approaching unlawful imprisonment.

The school
sent us a letter home with our son saying it was a “…pre-planned
search of student lockers using trained narcotics detections dogs.”
It continued, “As per our ongoing protocol of ensuring a safe
and orderly drug-free environment…this search was a component
of our program to deter illegal activity.” There was no reasonable
suspicion of any drug activity. It seems that this search was itself
an illegal activity because it was a warrantless dragnet, pure and
simple.

This incident
is proof to parents that the government has little common sense
when it comes to our children. They teach about human rights, the
U.S. Constitution and tolerance, but do not practice what they preach.

Many of the
kids are saying that Steinert H.S. teachers, counselors and principal
are not about education, just prosecution of the ‘War on Drugs.’
There are over 1,625 students and guess what percentage of them
were discovered to have had drugs or marijuana in their lockers?
Zero. Nada, as in not one. For this, the Hamilton Township
police and school administration alienated the trust of all 1,625
students, many of whom now feel that students are automatically
guilty until proven otherwise. The kids know that they would never
do the same thing to their teachers’ lockers, nor publicly owned
offices of the U.S. Congress, the White House and all federal agencies
to weed out all those who seem to be definitely on drugs.

The Hamilton
School District and Police Department stand on the point that the
students’ lockers are public property and thus subject to search
at any time. However, how far can a police agency go into warrantless
searches of over a thousand people’s effects without probable cause?
Why must students have no expectation of privacy of their personal
effects when given no choice but to use school lockers for their
burdensome books, note pads, lunches, clothing and other paraphernalia?
And why are other public employees storage spaces not routinely
searched while teachers, office clerks and even Congressional representatives
are held under lock down?

If you go to
a restaurant and place your parka on a public coat rack, can a police
officer search every coat on the rack, go inside your zippered pockets
and indict you for any contraband that he might find? Or do you
still have rights to privacy in your personal effects no matter
where you set them temporarily?

Whether these
searches were legal or not, what kind of message are they sending
to the whole student body? That they are guilty until proven innocent
and that their freedoms are secondary to elites advancing their
political careers by posturing themselves as effectively dealing
with juvenile drug problems. There is no juvenile drug problem,
just a problem in the judgment of out-of-touch-with-reality Hamilton,
New Jersey, community leaders.

Unsaid is that
this tactic of arresting whole student bodies and searching every
locker is a pseudo-terrorist tactic designed to frighten kids into
not bringing controlled substances to school. In the War on Terrorism,
even local government has become a neo-terrorist operation, indulging
in situational ethics where the end justifies whatever means it
chooses.

In Hamilton
Township, New Jersey, a drug-free environment is a rights-free
environment. From the failed and embarrassing search at Steinert
High School, Hamilton’s "zero tolerance" proves its zero
intelligence.

October
23, 2007

Jack
Duggan [send him mail]
lives in Hamilton, New Jersey with his family.

Jack
Duggan: Archives

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