As far as the Students for Sensible Drug Policy are concerned, the 11 Flathead High School teens arrested last Tuesday for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer have been placed on a fast-track to prison.
“If school administrators feel the need to place undercover officers in our schools, it is obvious that zero tolerance policies have failed,” says James Weleber, president of the SSDP chapter at Montana State University, Bozeman.
For two months, a 24-year-old Billings police officer—described by Kalispell Police Chief Frank Garner as a baby face in baggy pants—posed as a high school student and purchased marijuana from teenage dealers. Some students felt betrayed, acknowledges Flathead High School Principal Callie Langohr, but the school had already run through other options for handling reports of drug use among students—like interventions and repeated calls to parents.
SSPD condemns the arrests on numerous counts. First of all, current drug education, including the DARE program, is not science-based, says SSPD activist Melissa Milam.
If educators were sincerely worried about substance abuse, she says, drug education would be comprehensive, including alcohol and tobacco along with marijuana and other illegal and prescription drugs.
The most hypocritical part of the arrests, Milam believes, is that high school students notoriously abuse alcohol. She’d like to know whether the undercover agent arrested students for underage drinking.
The focus, says Principle Langohr, was on the alleged drug use. “We wanted to determine the reliability and credibility of the reports [of drug use],” she says.
SSPD’s opposition to the arrests isn’t a vote in favor of drug use, Milam cautions. “We by no means and in no way condone or encourage the use of drugs,” she says.
Principle Langohr says the enrollment status of the 11 students arrested is currently under review, and will result in a range of actions from no-action to expulsion.