Drug search sends wrong message

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Editor, Register-Mail: Of the lockdown and search at GHS on Thursday, Principal Diane Hutchins said, "We feel like it sent out a good message."

The message it sends to all the students of GHS is this: whether you are guilty or not, whether we suspect you or not, you and your belongings are subject to being searched whenever we feel like it.

Because people who've done nothing wrong have nothing to hide?

This is not "a good message." This is an egregious erosion of civil liberty.

If these students had been adults at work, the raid (evidently with no probable cause and no warrant issued) would have been a clear and obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The terrible message that the school has sent here is that the freedoms that the American colonists fought so hard for are nothing more than inconvenient words on an old piece of parchment, to be evaded whenever a loophole presents itself.

It was precisely this sort of search that loomed large in the framers' minds when crafting the Fourth Amendment: during the Revolution and before it, British agents under "writs of assistance" would go through people's houses fishing for smuggled goods. This gross invasion of privacy was a major factor in furthering the movement for independence - even innocent people aren't too happy at having government agents rifle through their stuff.

Increasingly, we hear from people who seem to believe that saying a magic word like "drugs" (or, for that matter, "terrorism") suddenly justifies the negation of all the rights enumerated in the Constitution.

Patriotic Americans should not let that happen; when we pledge allegiance to a nation "with liberty and justice for all," we shouldn't have to add any disclaimers at the end. - Don Blaheta, Galesburg


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