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Everyone shares some blame in Southern Local

May 31, 2009
Morning Journal News

There seems to be enough blame to go around in the case of the Southern Local High School student who was charged with possession of marijuana and jailed while on a class trip to South Carolina.

First, much of the blame should fall on the student herself and her parents. She was at fault for taking marijuana on her class trip - an offense to which she has admitted guilt. And while she is only 17 and still considered a juvenile, she is a senior in high school and old enough to know that what she was doing was not only wrong, it is illegal and if caught, she would have to face the consequences.

Her parents deserve blame first for failing to provide a way for school authorities to reach them in case of an emergency during the trip. Then, they showed total disregard for their own child's well-being by only sending her money for bail and a bus ticket instead of traveling to Myrtle Beach to ensure her release from jail and safe return home.

The girl's story of meeting the older male inmate who accompanied her to a tent city for the homeless, chills the blood of parents and grandparents everywhere. Has everyone forgotten the Natalie Holloway case already? Many children may be denied the ability to enjoy future student outings because their families may justifiably fear they risk losing their loved ones forever.

And, while most will probably disagree with us and feel that the student and her parents share total responsibility for this incident, we feel the Southern Local school officials are at fault as well. Their handling of the whole affair was flawed from the beginning.

The students' luggage was reportedly searched prior to leaving on the trip, so how was the marijuana missed? Was it purchased later during the trip, or secreted somewhere on the girl's body? Perhaps drug sniffing dogs should be employed before the next trip.

And, was it really necessary to immediately involve legal authorities in the case? Instead of calling the police, couldn't the teacher who discovered the contraband have confiscated the pot, reported the discovery to fellow teachers and chaperones and left the incident to be handled back in Ohio. No doubt the student deserves to be punished for this infraction, but turning her over to South Carolina officials on a simple marijuana possession charge and subsequently threatening her overall safety seems to be over the top. And, after the girl was placed in custody, a teacher should have stayed behind with the child until the matter was resolved. We understand that the buses had to keep to a schedule and that the other students needed to return home. But an adult should have remained behind to stay with the student until her parents arrived.

We hope the Southern Local school board and its administrators will give a full review of this incident and consider whether more common sense shouldn't be used when dealing with student violations. Perhaps the next time discipline is needed it can be doled out with less than life-threatening consequences.



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