Sign of the times? Or of Big Brother?

School drug raid causes uproar

If you haven’t seen the video of the big drug raid at the Goose Creek, SC, high school, you should check it out at the link above. I don’t know how long it will be available.

Police officers, guns drawn, line up students face-down and search them. What appear to by school officials look on as officers, some with dogs, make their way down the line.

The principal, George McCrackin, received “tips” from “informants” that campus drug dealers might be armed. He has a vast network of surveillance equipment available to him. They’ve been working the case for weeks. Despite the sensationalism, the bust went off without a hitch. Only one problem. (Wait for it!)

No drugs were found. (badda-boom.)

Is this school an example of George Orwell’s 1984 coming to pass? Maybe. But how often do we hear complaints that school officials are clueless about what happens in their halls? Is this perhaps just the world we live in today? In any case, the row of computer monitors, each with sixteen camera images on the screen, creeps me out. And when does tattling on fellow students cross the line from “neighborhood watch” to “informing?” I believe that these are very difficult issues, but issues that need to be discussed.

Was the way police conducted the raid overkill? Looking at the results, of course it was. But what if there had been armed dealers who were prepared to fight? What if a police officer and three bystander students were killed, along with three drug dealers, in a surprise shoot-out? Wouldn’t police then be questioned about why they didn’t use more force to prevent such an event from beginning?

Or should using police to raid schools be forbidden? There are so many things that can go wrong, and so many children that could be caught in the middle of a bad situation, that maybe they should be outlawed. But how, then, do you get the bad guys?

And have no doubt that there are bad guys in school. Every school. Do the particular dealers that McCrackin and the police were after last week exist? I don’t know. But to imagine that there are no drugs in that school, or in any school anywhere, is simply ignorant.

There’s suspicion that the dealers were tipped off about the raid by informants of their own. Bad guys are, by definition, bad. They are often very smart and usually very clever. The dumb ones don’t generally last very long.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit himself, writes about this issue on his MSNBC page.

There seem to be two possibilities here. Either the situation at Stratford High School is just as bad as Principal McCrackin and the police think, in spite of stormtrooper tactics and Big Brother surveillance, or it’s not. If it is that bad, well, I certainly wouldn’t want my kid going there. And if it’s not that bad, but the police and principal are too stupid, or too power-drunk, to admit it, well, then I wouldn’t want my kid going there either.

He notes that this event could helps those who support private schools or vouchers, which would allow parents to move their kids to a less dangerous school, and homeschoolers, who dispense with school altogether. I agree in principle, but I’m not sure that school choice will make a big impact overall. Wherever you go, especially if there’s money to be made, you will have this sort of problem. At home, homeschool parents have a gigantic amount of control and non-intrusive supervision/surveillance, but that simply isn’t an option for everyone. And even if it was, not all homeschool parents are created equal. I support both school-choice and the homeschool concept, but not primarily because I worry about this type of situation.

I hope I’m not making too big of a comparison when I bring up the WMD hunt in Iraq. When you look at it, this situation is remarkably similar to what has transpired in the Middle East. Like Principal McCrackin, we are absolutely sure in our minds that the bad guys had stuff that they weren’t supposed to have. We have a lot of evidence to back those beliefs up. But when the troops move in with weapons drawn, we get nothing at all and some of the leading bad guys are still at large. Does that mean that intelligence was wrong and there wasn’t any bad stuff? I don’t think so. Does that mean that we have to stop trying to get the bad guys since they’re so damn sneaky that we’ll never catch them red-handed? I don’t think so. Does that mean that we’re going to have to do a better job getting our facts straight, formulating a workable plan, and use force only when there’s no other way? I certainly hope so.

Like Iraq, I don’t think inspections for drugs at the high school in South Carolina would have worked. Sure, they would have rounded up a few things every now and again, but overall they would have failed miserably. Force is one way, and often the only way, to deal with some situations. But there are a lot of other options available most of the time and I hope that the decision makers, whether in the White House, Langley, VA, or in principal’s offices across the nation, work hard to make the right call at the right time.

That being said, I’m not sure how changing the Pledge of Allegiance is going to solve anything.