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July 11, 2006 - Post and Courier (SC)

Judge Oks Settlement For Stratford Police Raid

By Mindy B. Hagen

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

An estimated 140 Stratford High School students searched during the school's 2003 police raid could receive individual shares of settlement funds between $6,000 and $12,000 as soon as September.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy gave final approval to the class-action settlement that pitted students and families affected by the police sweep against Berkeley County School District officials and the Goose Creek Police Department. The judge gave preliminary approval to the settlement in April.

The 16-page order handed down Monday calls for a final settlement figure of $1.6 million, with students eligible to split $1.2 million of those funds. Students' lawyers will earn the remaining $400,000 under the agreement.

Marlon Kimpson, a lawyer with Motley Rice LLC, the firm that represented most of the students, said students involved in the drug sweep must file claims by July 28.

A claims administrator appointed by the court will then evaluate each student's claim and determine which students are eligible for the funds, Kimpson said.

"Any student who was searched and seized on Nov. 5, 2003, is now eligible for compensation and they have received notice of that," Kimpson said. "It is now incumbent on the students to take action and have their claim considered."

Photographic evidence determined that about 140 Stratford students were present when police burst into a school hallway by shouting, waving guns and forcing some students to the ground.

The raid uncovered no drugs or weapons, and no arrests were made. Longtime Stratford Principal George McCrackin resigned during the subsequent media frenzy and took an administrative position with the school district.

Kimpson said the exact amount of compensation from the settlement that each student will receive depends on the final number of students who file claims.

He said many Motley Rice clients have indicated they plan to use the money to help pay the costs of college, technical college, vocational school or other educational opportunities.

Since the raid, both the Berkeley school district and Goose Creek Police Department have changed their policies for drug sweeps. Kimpson said he thinks lessons have been learned.

"McCrackin is no longer in charge, the police have agreed to additional training and school district has vowed to change its policies with respect to the way they conduct drug raids," Kimpson said.

"You must conduct drug searches according to the U.S. Constitution. This settlement and this class-action lawsuit is notice to police officers and school officials across the nation that students don't shed their constitutional rights merely by entering a schoolhouse door."

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