What it means to us: Students react to drug bust, reflect on school culture
April 19, 2013
“This is definitely something that needed to be done,” said senior Jessica Cross. “This whole process of selling drugs on campus has become too casual … when you start bringing these kinds of things to a school campus you put yourself in a situation to be punished.”
In the four full years I have attended Nevada Union High School, never have I seen such an outburst of differing opinions, arguments and a general care from students.
On April 2, six student arrests took place at Nevada Union for sales of drugs, including marijuana, hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms after a three-month undercover operation. In the following two weeks after the bust, there seems to be an ongoing discussion over the fairness or justification of the arrests — classroom debates, Facebook posts, student conversations, administration meetings and many more forms of analysis. But despite the true right or wrong of the situation, it is almost fascinating to see such a large amount of attention from a group of high school students, who (especially among the upperclassmen) seem to have little to no care left for anything high school related.
Yet these arrests happen, and all of a sudden there is a common interest and concern for the well-being of the arrested students, as well as the fairness of the bust. I think it is important to realize and highlight the fact that this whole situation means a lot to the students; whether they are for or against what happened, they obviously really care, and I think it’s crucial that the administration and community as a whole listen to their opinions.
The obvious intention of handcuffing students on their desks and doing it at school was for the shock value.
Zane Weinberger, Nevada Union senior
These past few days, I decided to poll a few of my classes to try to get a sense of their general attitude of toward the arrests. I asked them if they support/agree with the way the arrests were handled: 22 said yes, 18 said no and 10 were indifferent to the topic. One classmate in particular had a very strong opinion about the whole thing.
“I think that the way that the arrests were handled was ridiculous,” said senior Zane Weinberger. “The obvious intention of handcuffing students on their desks and doing it at school was for the shock value. I don’t think that scare tactics should never, ever be used on high school students. Additionally, I think that embarrassing and demeaning students in front of their peers is totally unnecessary, uncalled for, and should never happen. While I appreciate the concern and efforts to make the campus a safer place, the absolute wrong way to do this is to create a culture of fear and resentment and anger among the student body. By using undercover agents and insinuating that more may still be on campus, they completely reverse the desired effect.
“No one feels safe when they have to distrust anyone new in their lives. This spiraling cycle of paranoia between feelings of powerlessness and acting out (which then result in punishment and back to powerlessness at the beginning of the cycle) is the opposite of a safe and comfortable environment, which our law enforcement purports to create.”
It is important, however, to distinguish between the arrests themselves and the way the arrests were handled. Many students I have talked to agree that the students deserved some type of punishment for their actions but, similarly to Weinberger, thought the whole process of arresting them on campus during class was completely inappropriate.
Some other students, however, thought the way the arrests were executed was completely fair.
“They were completely justified” said senior Adam Seifert. “I think if they were to have done it any other way, it would be less efficient. Besides the idea of ‘sending a message’, logistically that’s the best way they could have done it. To have done it any other way would have taken more work and would have not been as successful.”
“Of course there was a better way,” Weinberger said. “The Sheriff’s Office could have done simultaneous house calls. I understand that isn’t a guaranteed success like doing the arrests at school, but the students could have been called into the office and arrested there. As previously mentioned, arresting kids on the desks is totally out of the question …”
Additionally, though the drug problem is a definitely a serious issue here on campus, some students noted that there are other issues in Nevada Union’s environment that need to be taken care of as well. Many students I spoke with had a general agreement that things like bullying, derogatory words, vulgarity and different forms of bigotry are problems that frequently occur within NU’s social climate.
In the end, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but regardless of opinions, everyone wants Nevada Union to feel like a safe environment. This is especially important for the incoming freshmen, as they are the ones who will be spending the next four years at this school.
High schools will always have some type of problem that needs to be solved, and though nothing can ever be “perfect,” it is essential that the administration strives to make this school the best it can possibly be, while remembering to take student views and ideas into consideration. After all, if there’s anyone who truly knows what Nevada Union is like, it’s us.
Maya Anderman is a Nevada Union High School student, who completed her senior project with The Union.