Student Asks if ‘Drastic’ Drug Search Worked?
I would like to express my appreciation to the News-Press for finally giving the matter of the recent school search the attention that this important issue deserves. For those that may not be aware, on May 16 a so called “drill” was conducted in George Mason High School in which every student was instructed to put their bags in the hall where they would be “visited” by drug-sniffing dogs.
This action by the school is not only ineffective but counterproductive, as it criminalizes the entire student body by subjecting everyone to this type of examination. Furthermore, this blanket sweep of students’ belongings is offensive to the students by implying that they are all drug users and will all be treated as criminals regardless as to whether or not there is any reasonable suspicion for believing that to be the case.
The decision to conduct this search is also quite tragic as it destroys any sense of trust between the student body and the school administrators which is essential in maintaining a positive learning environment. It is crucial that students feel as though they can approach a school official when they need to do so; however this drastic measure serves to alienate school officials from the student body thus hindering their ability to be approached by students. Equally important is the heightened sense of resentment towards law enforcement that will inevitably result from the decision to have police officers use canines to inspect their personal belongings, thereby violating their sense of privacy. The ability to trust police is necessary for a secure society and exacerbating teenagers’ existing sense of disfavor towards law enforcement will have serious negative repercussions for the rest of their lives.
Regardless as to whether the school was fully within the law in conducting the blanket search, it should be questioned if such a drastic measure is even effective in curbing student drug use.
Bearing this in mind, it is apparent that the actions taken by the school serve primarily to promote its image of being “tough on drugs” as opposed to being in the best interest of students.
Expected Higher Standard at F.C. City Schools
The recent search of students’ personal belongings at George Mason High School (where my daughter is a student) both disturbed and disappointed me, but did not surprise me. I thought we could expect more from our otherwise excellent school district. Your editorial in last week’s issue aptly pointed out that “Do as I say, not as I do” is a leadership style that not only doesn’t work, “it smacks of a kind of hypocrisy that no one respects.” It went on to ask the very question that was on my mind, “What does it mean to teach cornerstone principles of American Constitutional freedoms and guarantee in a classroom, and then wantonly abandon them in the hallways [of the school]?” The answer to that question was provided by a commenter that was quoted in the same editorial piece, “The lesson is that those who have the power do what they want.”
Unfortunately, we can’t blame this leadership attitude entirely on the the Falls Church Schools. The lesson is taught every day by our national leaders, starting with Congress, which routinely passes laws that apply to everyone in the country except itself.
As for the unreasonable search at GMHS that lacked probable cause, again, the tone for that has long been set by certain federal authorities, who routinely invade and search the property of law-abiding citizens, often based on baseless tips from shady individuals, in search of drugs that don’t exist. These federal authorities also have the power to seize the property – virtually anything – of “suspects,” even in the absence of a court judgment or conviction. This trampling of individual rights is done in the name of the destructive, and ineffective, War on Drugs that the government waged against its citizenry, which has senselessly destroyed the lives of millions of people and wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars over the last 30 years.
I had hoped that the leaders of “The Little City” would have had the backbone to set a higher standard, but it looks like they are just going to follow the lead of our misguided national leaders.
Claims E-Mails Constituted Valid ‘Closed Meeting’
In Virginia, the “Open Meetings” law is codified at VA Code § 2.2-3707, which requires simply that all meetings must be open, except for exceptions listed at § 2.2-3711.
§ 2.2-3711(A)(3) provides that one such exception is “…[d]iscussion or consideration of the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or of the disposition of publicly held real property, where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body.”
In the e-mails provided, Kaylin’s 6/5 9:12 p.m. e-mail mentions displacing 70-80 families or or providing millions of dollars for Mt. Daniel expansion. It seems to be at least plausible that if the alternatives under discussion include these two, it would come under the ambit of the real estate exception.
Even setting aside this exception, both the Attorney General of Virginia and the Virginia Supreme Court considered this identical issue, and did not agree with your determination. The Attorney General’s opinion (1999 Op. Atty. Gen. 12) concluded that “[t]ransmitting messages through an electronic mail system is essentially a form of written communication,” and such communication does not constitute a “meeting” under FOIA.
In Beck v. Shelton, 593 SE 2d 195 (Va. 2004), the Virginia Supreme Court agreed, holding that members of the City of Fredericksburg Council accused of having violated the same law, for the same conduct, were not violating the law:
In the case before us, the e-mail communications did not involve virtually simultaneous interaction. Rather, the e-mail communications at issue in this case were more like traditional letters sent by ordinary mail, courier, or facsimile. The record contains printed copies of the e-mails in question. The shortest interval between sending a particular e-mail and receiving a response was more than four hours. . . . We hold that the trial court erred in its determination that the e-mail communications at issue in this case constituted a “meeting” under FOIA.
Why F.C. Chosen as Locations for Peruvian Elections?
I noticed a marked improvement in how the second round of Peruvian elections was managed this past Sunday. The first round in early Spring was a total nightmare for residents and businesses near Mason and Henderson schools where the elections were held: traffic gridlock, illegal parking, blocked side roads, trash, and damage to lawns. This time, the only issue was traffic congestion, which remained a real issue. Thanks to all for their hard work, particularly Fairfax County police who turned out in force.
While improved, it begs the question why the elections were held in Falls Church. The area is congested enough, let alone when 20,000 voters descend on it. In the future, Falls Church school authorities need to demonstrate more consideration when making a decision like this. Both times, residents were virtual prisoners in their homes all day since they were either unable or unwilling to leave their homes unprotected. I know I was. Certainly with more careful thought, it would have been obvious that a larger venue such as the Verizon Center would better serve the needs of residents, businesses, and Peruvian voters who were needlessly impacted by a poor decision.
Thanks FCNP for Coverage of Peruvian Election
Please pass on my words of gratitude to the FCNP’s Graeme Jennings for the coverage given to the run-off election in West Falls Church last Sunday.
It was a hotly-contested election that again drew thousands of Peruvian voters, but, thanks to the work of the Peruvian Consulate and the local police, there were no traffic snarls or other traffic-related problems that gained coverage after the first-round election in April.
Anyway, thanks again to your reporter and to the editor for publishing the online story and photo.
Via the Internet
Announces Plan to Put Lights on GM Diamond
The George Mason High School varsity baseball season came to an abrupt and early end two weeks ago with a playoff game loss.
The contest featured several interesting moments but none were more curious than the fact that the game started at Mason but finished at Marshall High School. Due to a rain delay and a tie score that led to extra innings, the game was not decided at sundown and needed to be finished that day. GMHS baseball and softball fields are (I think) the only public school fields in northern Virginia that are not equipped with lights.
While this is a competitive disadvantage to our student athletes with respect to practice time (particularly prior to rolling the clocks forward), it also makes for small crowds at the start of our games because most working parents are fighting traffic at 5 p.m. – our required start time to complete the games before sundown (provided the game ends in regulation). This early start time also makes for a hectic day for our student athletes on game days and is an extra burden for visiting teams that must leave their schools extra early to get to our fields on time for our home games. I am part of a group that has decided to try to light both of our diamonds and even these playing fields via private funds and appropriate partnerships.
Please let all Mustang baseball and softball fans – past, present, and future – that they will soon have an opportunity to be part of our solution and will hear from us soon.
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