November 7, 2003 - Charleston Post and Courier (SC)
Police Fail to Find Drugs in Stratford High Raid
By Seanna Adcox, Post And Courier Staff
GOOSE CREEK-Reports of drug deals at Stratford High School led to an early-morning police raid this week in which about 15 officers cordoned off the main hallway to search for marijuana. Several drew their guns but did not use force, police said.
Officers did not arrest anyone during the lockdown at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday.
A police dog sniffed residue on 12 book bags but found no drugs, said Lt. Dave Aarons of the Goose Creek Police Department.
"Several officers did unholster their weapons in a tactical law enforcement approach," he said. "There was no force whatsoever. Everyone was very compliant."
Officers charged a ninth-grader Wednesday afternoon with filing a false police report.
The juvenile said an officer shoved her to the ground during the search, Aarons said. Principal George McCrackin said he, other school officials and the girl's parent reviewed video surveillance tapes and determined she wasn't even in that hall at the time.
McCrackin went to Aarons on Monday with suspicions about marijuana exchanges at the school, based on camera recordings and reports from students and teachers.
"Within the last three weeks, there's been an influx of drug activity. I've been in this business for 34 years, and I've never seen the amount of activity we've experienced recently," said McCrackin, who has been principal at the school since it opened in 1983.
Several weeks ago, a student was arrested trying to pass out between 200 and 300 prescription pills, he said. After school ended Friday, one student threatened another and claimed to have a weapon.
"We're not going to tolerate it," McCrackin said. "We have to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff." Aarons said he watched school surveillance tapes from four days that showed students congregating under cameras, periodically walking into a bathroom with different students and coming out moments later.
The suspected group of about 10 students comes to school in early buses.
Tapes show a network of lookouts, Aarons and McCrackin said.
"They're pretty knowledgeable in terms of where to stand. They know where the cameras are. If they stand directly under them, the cameras don't look directly down," Aarons said. "Faculty can view the students from other cameras, but from quite a distance away. They see silhouettes."
Fourteen officers and a police dog sealed off the main hallway Wednesday as about 20 administrators and teachers helped steer other students away, Aarons said. There were 107 students who happened to be in the hallway at the time, he added.
Police told the students to sit on the floor and put their hands out, McCrackin said.
Officers searched only book bags that the police dog responded to, not students, he said.
McCrackin said he believes a lookout alerted the group Wednesday morning by cell phone after seeing police arrive.
Later in the day, two other students who fought in the cafeteria during lunch were charged with disturbing school.
One of those received a five-day suspension, while the other received a 10-day suspension and is recommended for expulsion, he said.
About 2,760 students attend Stratford High, the largest school in Berkeley County and among the largest statewide.
Two officers work in the school full-time. The high school in the county's growing southern end has an academic reputation as one of the Lowcountry's best. It received a score of excellent on state report cards released Wednesday.
McCrackin, who has two children at the school, said the problem mostly stems from students who transferred into the school this year from out of state.
"No school is immune, whether it's one of the best or one of the worst. It's anywhere and everywhere," said Harriett Dangerfield, chairwoman of the Berkeley County School Board. "I'm proud we don't deny those things occur. I'm delighted we're being proactive and not reactive, because it is out there."
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