Incident at Goose Creek, SC
Fallout continues over the raid at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina on November 5. The raid -- in which Goose Creek police stormed a school hallway with guns drawn as they ordered cowering students to the floor - showed officers cuffing those who complied too slowly, and 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 an unnamed informant's tip, and "increased drug activity" he thought he saw while peering through the school's more than 70 security cameras. The principal added that he did not know police would conduct the raid with guns drawn. During the raid, a police dog allegedly sniffed drug residue on 12 book bags but found no drugs. No one was arrested.
Speaking to The New York Times, De'Nea Dykes, an African-American 11th-grader, said she was leaving the restroom when she saw officers coming down the hall with guns drawn.
"I assumed that they were trying to protect us, that it was like Columbine, that somebody got in the school that was crazy or dangerous," she said. "But then a police officer pointed a gun at me. It was really scary."
Jessica Chinners, a white 10th-grader,
told the Times that when she saw which students were being
searched, her first thought was that the police were racist.
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. As the community polarizes, 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 reported 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 had rallied in support of McCrackin and the raids earlier. 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."
Outside observers who traveled to Goose Creek in the wake of the raid, including Loretta Nall of the US Marijuana Party and Dan Goldman of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), commented frequently to the press on racial tensions in South Carolina. This is the state that allows prosecution of poor black women for prenatal drug use, and where its leaders remain unable to resolve long-simmering conflict over display of the state's Confederate-style flag.
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 booklet, 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.
Angry students and 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 also. "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.
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, first editorialized on the topic one week after the raid.
"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."
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 several weeks into its estimated two-month investigation. The local prosecutor, Ralph Hoisington, has asked the FBI to decide if there were any federal law or civil rights violations.
As this issue goes to press, the South Carolina Attorney General is also investigating the raid, and the families of 17 students involved have filed a lawsuit against the city of Goose Creek and the Berkeley County School District in federal court, alleging police and school officials terrorized them in the drug raid. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a South Carolina native, has announced plans for a Dec. 16 rally to protest the drug raid.
Source: compiled from news articles and The Drug War Chronicle, at www.stopthedrugwar.org
Transcripts obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier through the Freedom of Information Act.