Teacher was Right to Warn Students About Drug Survey

June 3, 2013

Back in 1999 when my wife and I taught at a public high school in North Carolina, she came across an opportunity to put into action material she had just taught.  Fresh from teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, as she wondered through the administrative office area of our school one day, she noticed a meeting between the vice-principal, the school’s resource police officer, and one of her students.  Without hesitation, she took full advantage of what teachers refer to as a teachable moment by ducking her head into the office and reminding her student that he had a constitutional right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment.  For her efforts, my wife received a sneer from the police officer and nothing more was made of the matter.

Let’s fast forward to 2013 and the tale of another public school teacher taking advantage of the same exact teachable moment.  A short while after teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School in Illinois, picked up a stack of surveys from the school office for his students to complete.  Noticing that his students’ names were on the surveys and the surveys had questions asking about drug and alcohol usage, he reminded his students that they had the right to not incriminate themselves guaranteed by the 5th Amendment.

For his admonition, Dryden was docked a day’s pay, charged with “unprofessional conduct”, and had a letter of remedy outlining probationary actions he must complete placed in his file.

What a difference 14 years can make?

The above illustrates just how perverted the public school system in America has become.  Whether you are a teacher or a student, if you deviate from the Establishment order, you will pay a heavy price.  This includes arresting 12 year olds for doodling on desks and suspending 7 year olds for biting PopTarts into the shape of a gun.

In handing down the punishment on Dryden, the school board president Cathy Dremel indicated that he “mischaracterized” the intentions of school administrators with regards to the survey.  According to Dremel, the intention was not to invade the privacy of students but to focus attention on specific student needs.

Unfortunately, that focus was on actions (drug and alcohol usage) that are illegal and whether school officials and resource police officers like to admit it or not, they are a part of the government apparatus charged with making sure the law is adhered to in the public schools.  Thus, there is no guarantee that a student answering in the affirmative to illegal drug usage would not be charged with a crime.

Now, it could be argued that school officials at Batavia High School would have no way to address student needs without the cooperation of teachers and students on the survey.  Many kids could be lost to drug addiction or worst.

But, the current circumstances not the Bill of Rights impede a school’s ability to do that. If school officials want to truly help students with these types of problems they should push for ending the War on Drugs.  Then we can treat drug abuse not as a criminal matter but like the medical issue that it is.  Then, students could answer questions frankly and potentially receive the help they need.
At the end of the day, all Americans enjoy the right to not incriminate themselves guaranteed by the 5th Amendment.  Public school officials should not be allowed to ignore this right or punish those who teach it.

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As Usual, Campaign Full of Hype, but Short on Details

November 3, 2010

Given all the hype about this year’s midterm elections, you’d think that the results are actually going to make a difference in the lives of Americans.  Oh, we’ve all heard the hyperbole.  Both sides are talking about how this is an election for “the soul of America”.  Democrats are warning Americans that we can’t go back to the failed policies of the Bush Administration by electing Republicans to Congress.  Republicans, bolstered by the Tea Partiers, are screaming bloody murder about the president’s socialist policies and his reckless spending.  It seems like both sides have wasted a huge amount of time and money with these worthless arguments when they should have been talking details about some issues that will really affect Americans.

For starters, let’s talk about the War on Drugs? Since its inception, government at all levels has spent an enormous amount of money on drug eradication, policing, prosecutions, and imprisonment.  Within the last year we passed the milestone of having one in every one-hundred Americans behind bars.  Many are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.  But, besides the cost of this failed war it has also caused a huge problem on our southern border – incredible violence.  Actually there is a civil war going on in Mexico that is spilling over into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  It’s all fueled by the enormous profits reaped from illegal drugs.  The “rebels” in Mexico have turned huge profits into murderous rampages of police, judges, and mayors in Mexico and Americans in Arizona and Texas.  With all the carnage caused by the War on Drugs there has been hardly any debate amongst the candidates about what should be done.  I am hard pressed to come up with a candidate who has called for an end to the madness by decriminalizing drugs and treating the situation like the pubic heath problem that it is.  It is a disgrace that an issue so important to the safety of Americans, our border integrity and fiscal sanity has been totally ignored.

As much as Tea Partiers like to denounce federal spending they have not made eliminating wasteful federal departments a part of their platform.  Take the Department of Energy for instance.  Its goal when it was founded in the late 1970s was to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.  It has failed miserably in that endeavor.  In the early 1970s, America imported 24 percent of Her oil.  Today She imports over 65 percent of Her oil.  With a $23 billion annual budget, should we continue to subsidize this failure?  Unfortunately, no candidates addressed this question during the campaign.

Naturally, politicians want to win elections, so any discussion about making hard choices with regard to Social Security and Medicare was off the table during the campaign.  Unfortunately, with millions of baby boomers hitting retirement these two “entitlement” programs more than anything else will break the federal budget. The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) in 2008 announced that unfunded obligations for Medicare and Social Security totaled almost $41 trillion.  Yet, very little discussion was had during the campaign about raising the retirement age or privatizing the system.  How can an issue with such huge implications for the future of the country get so little attention?

Last, but certainly not least, little attention has been given in this campaign to the institution most responsible for the financial crisis, the institution which controls the supply of our currency yet operates in absolute secrecy, and the institution which has and is about to again give billions of dollars in backdoor bailout funds to shyster banks.  I am of course referring to the Federal Reserve Bank.  Ben Bernanke and his Federal Open Market Committee are arguably the most powerful economic policymakers in the world and as recently as a couple of weeks ago Fed policymakers were expressing their belief that inflation was “too low”.  In other words, the prices you pay for goods and services are not high enough to spur economic recovery.  Now, this rhetoric would be tolerable if it was simply professorial theorizing, but these same policymakers actually have the power to print more dollars and make prices go up even further.  What’s so amazing is that Tea Party candidates have made reckless government spending their mantra issue, yet almost none have lambasted the Fed for its role in monetizing the debt.

Chances are good that the midterm elections of 2010 will result in a political shift of power in the Congress.  So, what?  Even in their “Pledge to America” published in September the Republicans committed to cut spending by only $100 billion.  This is loose change compared to the enormous debt we are facing down the road.  Since they love war there is no chance they will end the violence caused by the War on Drugs.  Because they lack courage, Social Security and Medicare will doom us to financial ruin.  And the Federal Reserve will remain safe under Republican rule in Congress since it is the mechanism which makes all the reckless spending possible.  After Republicans screw up the next two years, maybe then Americans will be ready to vote for third parties.  Hopefully, it won’t be too late.


New Federal Medical Marijuana Policy Fraught with Peril

October 23, 2009

On Monday Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memo to federal prosecutors in 14 states regarding the Obama Administration’s position on medical marijuana.  The memo declared that prosecutors “should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”  Ogden’s directions went on to give federal agents the authority to go after those whose marijuana distribution actions go beyond what is allowed by the various state laws.  In essence, the memo gave prosecutors wide discretion in determining which cases to pursue and which to ignore based on their interpretation if any state laws are being broken.  On the surface, this seems like a compassionate gesture towards those suffering pain from maladies like cancer, glaucoma, and spasticity.  However, upon closer inspection, the Administration simply didn’t go nearly far enough and its position is fraught with peril.

First of all, how can there be a law that the government doesn’t enforce.  I realize there are a lot of old outdated laws on the books that governments do not enforce, but federal drug laws are a big deal.  Now, don’t get me wrong I would like to see all substance laws repealed on the grounds that individuals have an absolute right to do to their bodies what they choose as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.  Of course, being stoned, driving a car, and hurting another through those actions should still be illegal.  But, if you want to smoke a joint in the privacy of your home it is your natural right to do so.

The problem with the Administration’s new position on medical marijuana is that instead of saying go ahead and break the law and we will look the other way the Justice Department should be petitioning Congress to repeal the law outright.  What law will he decide not to enforce next – immigration laws?  Oops, I forgot he doesn’t already.  After all, isn’t the President nullifying an act of Congress because he is refusing to enforce its law?  This is no different than when states nullify an act of Congress or when juries release defendants because they believe the law the accused is being tried for is unjust or unconstitutional.  In both circumstances Uncle Sam gets snooty and cries fowl.  Why is the President any different?  Perhaps Congress should sue him at the Supreme Court to require him to enforce the law.

It is also concerning that the Administration is giving wide discretion to prosecutors in pursuing cases.  Naturally, some prosecutors are more gung-ho than others when it comes to prosecuting these types of cases.  Thus, equal protection of the law could be violated simply because there is no concrete legal standard involved only the judgment of individual prosecutors.  And besides where is it ordained that federal agents have any role in enforcing state laws?  This is clearly a violation of our institutionalized federal system.  Next thing you know, FBI agents will be given the jurisdiction to issue traffic tickets on the nation’s interstate highway system.  No, federal agents enforcing state laws will lead to a further erosion of state’s rights and bring us that much closer to federal hegemony over all matters. 

Of course, drug laws are not within the realm of the federal government per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution anyway.  The states retain the right to regulate drugs under the 10th Amendment.  There are state pharmaceutical laws and licensure in all 50 states.  You would think that somebody in the political establishment could come up with a common sense compromise that protects states’ rights yet maintains regulation over medical pot.  Perhaps federal law banning its use could be eliminated and control of the issue totally transferred to the individual states.  The states could then treat pot like they treat codeine and Prozac – as a behind the counter drug dispensed by pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.  After all, like the aforementioned drugs pot does have significant medicinal value.  This approach would ensure that worthy patients receive the medication their doctors prescribe, states would retain their right to regulating drugs, and federal prosecutors could focus their attention where it belongs – on cases like mail fraud and illegal immigration.

At the end of the day there will be no peace on our streets until Washington ends the so called “War on Drugs” completely.  In all fairness to the Administration, with its recent medical marijuana stand it has gone further than any previous administration in at least attempting to curb one abuse of that conflict.  Let’s hope this experiment goes well and as a result Mr. Ogden issues another memo declaring the federal war on drugs over.


Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You: Mexico’s War on Drugs

February 28, 2009
February 28, 2009

Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs has been an absolute failure in that country.  Last year, more than 6000 murders were committed linked directly to the drug war in Mexico – which was two times the number from the previous year.  Kidnappings, beheadings and other atrocities are on the rise in Mexico involving not just drug addicts, but innocent bystanders, police officers, judges, and other government officials.  Of course, because of the proximity of the United States to Mexico there is a fear that the violence will spread to our soil.  Based on news reports this week, the fears are more than justified as they soon may become a reality.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center

(NDIC) Mexican drug cartels have a distribution network that involves at least 230 U.S. cities.  Recent arrests by American law enforcement of Mexican drug traffickers in California, Minnesota, Maryland and Stow, Ohio indicate the threat is nationwide and located in urban as well as rural areas.  The NDIC believes the Mexican cartels are “the greatest drug trafficking threat to the U.S. as they control most of the U.S. drug market and have established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States”.

Because the drugs being distributed are illegal, other illegal activity accompanies their distribution.  There has been an increase in police discoveries of grenades, and other military-style weaponry headed for Mexico in the U.S.  The Phoenix police are inundated with reports of home break-ins, hostage takings, and kidnappings.  Last year, the Maricopa County attorney’s office said such cases rose to 241 from 48 in 2004.  Many of the incidents involve heavily armed assailants with survival and huge profits on their minds.

It is clear that the situation on our streets is about to spiral out of control unless something different from current policy is done.  The Mexican drug cartels effectively use their huge drug profits to arm and supply illegal immigrants and established gangs in the U.S. to carry out their trade.  As the economies of both Mexico and the U.S. continue to deteriorate from the worldwide economic crisis the labor pool for the cartels will expand as individuals seek new ways to feed their families.  Illegal immigration from Mexico will skyrocket even more.  Money for drug interdiction and crime prevention will be short as localities already feeling the pinch of the economic crisis go broke and Washington is paralyzed by the need to fund with a bankrupt treasury so many other needs in the nation.  With high profits from the illegal trade in the U.S., cartels will make our neighborhoods into battle zones.  Left with little help from the government, Americans will increasingly be forced to take the law into their own hands.  They will be no match for the well-financed, ridiculously armed thugs that will roam our streets.

But, America does have the ability to prevent this scenario.  First, we must bring home the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops serving abroad to protect the country they swore an oath to protect.  This not only will save Washington hundreds of billions of dollars annually, but their services are needed to maintain the integrity of our border with Mexico and keep the bad guys out.

Second, the federal government should repeal all drug prohibition laws and leave the matter to the states where it belongs under the 10th Amendment.  The Obama Administration is to be commended for announcing this week that federal raids on medical marijuana facilities in the various states will be stopped.  This is a great first step, but more needs to be done.  Ultimately the people, through their state lawmakers, must decide what regulations on drugs are appropriate for their state.  As some states legalize currently illegal drugs and experience a decline in violence other states will follow.  Making illicit drugs legal will eliminate the profit bonanzas of the cartels and destroy incentives for illegal immigrants and gangs to terrorize our neighborhoods.  

In June I wrote a post that beseeched American voters to consider a presidential candidate that would end the War on Drugs.  That didn’t happen, but now faced with the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression and drug violence about to spill over into our country from Mexico perhaps President Obama will seize the moment and end a catastrophic policy that has senselessly ruined many lives, brought lawlessness and disorder to our streets, and threatens the very existence of our civil society.