Use all available tools to keep drugs out of school
By Jonathan Greenberg
As a superintendent, one of my highest obligations is to ensure the safety of the more than 10,000 students that attend school in Perris Union High School District. Like all school districts in California and throughout the country, one of our primary tasks is to teach responsible decision-making as it relates to gangs, drugs and other health-related choices that teenagers make. While I think we, along with parents, collectively do a very good job teaching responsible decision-making, there are always some people, in this case some students, who make the wrong choices. When those wrong choices not only hurt themselves, but in this case others, the school district has a moral obligation to take action.
Vigilant campus supervisors, other school employees and school resource officers have done a wonderful job keeping school campuses safe. With the assistance of parents, community members and other students, they have helped schools on the interdiction side of keeping schools as safe as possible, especially when it comes to combating gangs and drugs.
Unfortunately, when it comes to drugs, education and modest attempts at interdiction are just not enough. We have a drug problem in America, in all communities regardless of socioeconomic status, race or language. Why would we be naive to believe that we don’t have drug problems in high schools and, sadly enough, in middle schools as well? The sad truth is that, in spite of our great efforts, drugs are bought and sold in America’s schools every single day. Frankly, I am not going to just do nothing and let it happen.
Undercover drug stings in high schools are not the only answer to the problem of drugs on our high school campuses. Yet, if done correctly and judiciously, these stings can help reduce the amount of drugs on the campuses, and maybe reduce the number of young people who get addicted to these harmful substances.
Moreover, those caught selling drugs hopefully will give up the names of their suppliers to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, so that law enforcement can more effectively fight drug trafficking outside of our schools and in our communities.
In our particular operation in 2013, we worked with the Sheriff’s Department to ensure that the drug sellers that were arrested knew right from wrong. None of the students that were ultimately arrested were autistic, and only one was in special education. In that case, his Individualized Education Plan indicated he was able to distinguish right from wrong. Ultimately, all of our students who were arrested plead guilty and are moving ahead with their lives, hopefully not selling and not taking drugs.
The bottom line is that there was no entrapment – these students were caught selling, not buying, drugs on a high school campus.
Finally, there are some detractors out there who claim that vulnerable students would sell drugs to make friends; consequently, they are victims just like drug buyers. To them, I would say that our experience in 2013 with the Sheriff’s Department is just the opposite. Plus, I would add that students with autism or in special education that do not know the difference between right and wrong are beneficiaries of these sting operations. These students are more apt to buy drugs from student sellers to make friends than they are to be drug sellers themselves.
In other words, reducing the proliferation of drugs on a high school campus is like the rising tide, and a rising tide raises all boats. Reducing the amount of drugs on a school campus benefits all students.
As a final thought, the vast majority of students in high schools are great young people, who are simply growing up and trying to figure out if they want to go to college, the world of work or the military when they graduate high school. These students, including my granddaughter who will be a ninth-grader at Paloma Valley High School, should not have to witness this nefarious drug activity going on in restrooms, other places on campus or to and from school.
We owe it to them, their parents and our communities to keep our campuses as safe as possible.
This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
About the author
Jonathan Greenberg is a cohort mentor at the Riverside campus for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program at Brandman University and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education as well as superintendent of the Perris Union High School District.
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