Let’s first stipulate that, like it is with any Collar County school district, there’s a drug problem at Geneva High School. And the truly terrifying thing is, it’s not much better at the middle school level, either.
Please keep this caveat in mind because it will be important later.
It’s certainly no great secret, particularly to any parent who’s ever sent a child there. Administrators do their best to contain it, but just as it is with the greater War on Drugs, eliminating the problem it is a lot like trying to keep the falling snow from hitting the ground.
Of course, that daunting futility doesn’t mean that law enforcement or school administrators should simply bury their heads in the sand. Even if drugs were legal, as pot now is, the last thing we need is students lighting up in that passing period hallway. Our high schools should always endeavor to keep our children safe while providing a sound educational environment.
But there are effective means of addressing a problem, and there are blatantly bad ways, and this one certainly falls into the latter category.
Having been observed vaping at the bus stop that morning, the Geneva Police took particular interest in an 18-year-old GHS student who I will not name because it’s not material to the story.
And that’s exactly where the story should’ve ended. Give her a ticket for underage vaping and let’s all move on to more important things. But unless they’re letting Mayor Kevin Burns slide on yet another DUI, that’s not nearly how the Geneva Police Department works.
Claiming they received a “tip” this young woman possessed cocaine, they informed GHS administrators and proceeded to search her locker.
And I put the word “tip” in quotes because there was no tip. How do I know this? I issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all the paperwork involved in this eventual arrest, and despite the content of that “tip” clearly being subject to disclosure, the GPD refused to provide it. They claimed the following exemption:
Section 3.3 of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/3.3) provides that “[t]his Act is not intended to compel public bodies to interpret or advise requesters as to the meaning or significance of the public records.”
First, that has to the most creative use of a FOIA exemption I’ve seen in my 14 years at the keyboard. As I explained to the GPD FOIA officer, unless that tip came in in Russian, I’m not asking anyone to “interpret” or “advise” me of the meaning of anything. Whenever a public entity grasps at those kinds of statutory straws, we all know they’re trying to cover up a lie.
And second, though I’ve long lost this argument, the courts’ consistent decision to abrogate their Fourth Amendment rights the second a student walks into a school building is patently unconstitutional bovine manure. Despite whatever the Tweeter in Chief thinks, we still don’t live in a police state.
After the locker search turned up nothing, this already too-long story should’ve ended there, but no! Unhappy with that outcome, the Geneva Police resorted to another lie. This is taken directly from their own police report:
[A GHS Dean] made contact with [the student]and escorted her to the Dean’s office. [The Dean] observed [the student] fidgeting with her wallet as she walked down the hallway. Upon searching the wallet, [the Dean] discovered the corner of a plastic bag which contained a white powdery substance.
First, what adult woman ever carries their wallet in their hand? It’s perpetually in their purse to the point where they won’t retrieve it in a grocery store checkout line until the last possible second. And second, if you’re being accused of carrying cocaine, the last thing you’re gonna do is announce its location to the world.
So, I don’t believe the “fidgeting” story for a New York minute and neither should you.
Third, even if she allowed the wallet search, and the police report doesn’t say she did, an 18-year-old student cannot possibly provide consent while surrounded by school administrators and police officers. That makes this “search” just about as dirty as the entire Houston Astros baseball team.
Rifling through a locker is one thing, but searching an item on one’s person is entirely another, and two local attorneys and a former judge agreed with that legal assessment. Were I her attorney – and she has a good one – the first thing I’d do is move to have the search results suppressed.
Finally exhibiting some rare good sense, even though she’s an adult in the eyes of the law, the officers called the student’s parents before any further questioning or the arrest.
The father came to the school, hugged his daughter, and correctly advised her not to speak with the GPD without an attorney present. She was led out of the school in handcuffs, taken to the station, charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, remanded to the Kane County jail, and was released on her own recognizance at the next bond call.
I’m not condoning drug use! As the late Rick James said, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug” and it can be particularly deleterious to young and not fully developed brains. My fondest wish is, as a result of all this, she realizes that drugs aren’t the answer.
But that doesn’t mean this arrest isn’t as bogus as a Confederate three-dollar bill.
And this is a perfect example of exactly how the Geneva Police Department really works., too! Mention the GPD to any sheriff’s deputy, prosecutor, defense attorney, or judge, and they’ll simply sigh and roll their eyes.
But while this is par for the GPD course, I expect far more from our local newspapers. They’ve had some recent reporting moments, but I’ve consistently accused Shaw Media of essentially turning their papers into glorified police blotters, and this is an especially egregious example.
Having previously noted that all suburban high schools have a drug problem, how is this news? It’s the lowest of the low hanging fruit. Aside from trying to ruin her young life, what could possibly be the Chronicle’s point in running this “story” complete with the young woman’s mugshots?
All it amounts to is a conviction in the press such that, even if the charges are dropped and the paper manages to print that story, their readers will only remember is the arrest. Put more simply, it’s a BS move on the part of a paper who’s glory days are long gone.
Shame on you Shaw Media. You can certainly do better than this!