(11-07-03) Goose Creek parents want answers after drug raid at high school

(Goose Creek) Nov. 7, 2003 - Students in Goose Creek say they were minding their own business early Wednesday when 14 police officers burst into Stratford High School with guns drawn.

Police dogs indicated the presence of drugs in 12 bookbags. One student was handcuffed as a result, while his backpack was searched.

No drugs were found and no arrests were made.

Goose Creek Police Department Lt. Dave Aarons says proper procedure was followed, "Some of the officers had their gun drawn in the low ready position, which is not pointing at the faces or heads of the students. It was down in a position where had somebody who had drugs on them and in fear of being caught makes a poor decision and decides to use a weapon as means of escape, we would be able to address that."

The incident infuriated many parents, like LeTonia Simmons, who say the children were treated like criminals, "I was just upset knowing they had guns put to their head and a K9 was barking at them and about to bite somebody. It was awful." She wants to know why the ordeal was neccessary, "Why did they have to take all that force? They were innocent kids, minding their own business, getting ready for class."

Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union says police officers should never have come into the school with guns drawn. Instead, the students suspected of having drugs should have been brought to the principal's office to have their bags checked.

The school's principal says the raid sends a clear message to the students that those who bring drugs to school could wind up in jail. Principal George McCrackin stands behind the decision, "The high school has always had a reputation for being a safe, clean school. And I'll utilize whatever forces I deem necessary to keep this campus safe and clean."

McCrackin says several students were cuffed when they refused to get on the floor, "I don't think it was an overreaction on our part. I'm sure it was an inconvenience to those individuals who were in the hallway, but there is a valuable experience there."

School officials say there have been at least four cases of students bringing drugs to school. Officers also say they're sure drugs and a large amount of cash was floating around the school. Police say the school alerted them to suspicious behavior observed on surveillance cameras. Officers looked at tapes and watched live surveillance before they decided there was enough cause to enter the campus.

They are now trying to figure out if the dealers were tipped off by students using cell phones.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and the solicitor for the area called in the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate the raid. They want to know if the display of force was necessary.

Updated 11:02pm by BrettWitt with AP