The War on Drugs is disrupting education


Zoe Haworth

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

By Eric Bradach

The U.S. War on Drugs has long been a controversial topic, and now, thanks to the nation’s surveillance addiction, it’s intruding and violating students’ education.

Worth County, Georgia, Sheriff Jeff Hobby—who is facing two counts of false imprisonment, one count of sexual battery and a charge of violating his oath of office—was suspended Nov. 13 by Gov. Nathan Deal. The sheriff searched hundreds of students at Worth County High School in April to find illegal drugs. None were found. The sheriff and his deputies kept the school on lockdown, confiscated the students’ cellphones and kept them from calling their parents, according to a Nov. 14 Associated Press article.

The searches were beyond invasive. Hobby took over the high school without a warrant and searched about 900 students, touching some students’ genitals and breasts. A $3 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against Hobby and his deputies was reached Nov. 14. Hobby is suspended but still may not be fired, according to a Nov. 15 Washington Post article. 

The lawsuit states that Hobby arrived at the school with a “target list” of 13 students for suspicion of having illegal drugs. But only three of those students were at school that day, and the sheriff had them brought to administrative offices and searched. When no drugs were found, Hobby put the entire school on lockdown: Students were confined to classrooms, hallways and the gym, according to the Associated Press article.

So instead of letting the search go or waiting until another day when all of the so-called “target list” were at the school, the sheriff decided it would be a better use of time and resources for him and his deputies to search 900 students without probable cause.

When young individuals are treated as criminals—especially in high school when they’re developing into adulthood—it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just having a police officer stationed at a school could prime students’ minds for those interactions. It puts them in a position of vulnerability and fear of whether they’ve done something wrong. 

The sheriff had a “target list,” but drug sweeps and policing at schools disproportionately affects students of low-income families, minorities and even those with disabilities. Arrests and incarceration at schools also increases the odds of their dropping out and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline, according to an Oct. 19, 2016, American Civil Liberty Union study. 

Rather than violating other parents’ children’s rights, maybe Hobby should make sure his own home is clear of drugs. According to an Oct. 25 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the sheriff has been accused of interfering with the criminal investigation into his 17-year-old son, who was arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana, intending to sell the product. So Hobby will defend his son on drug charges but disregards others’ children’s rights.

Students go to school to learn. Don’t pull all of them out of class just because one of them may have drugs. If it’s truly a danger and there is strong evidence that a student has drugs, get a warrant or talk to their parents. 

Hobby encroached on the educational process, reduced students’ time in the classroom and sexually violated minors for an already failed policy. He either needs to step down or be fired. 

If anyone is going to disrupt the most important process of childhood—education—it better be for a solid reason. This is anything but.