Pubdate: Sat, 02 Feb 2002
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Author: Michelle Teasley


Shasta Union High School District officials are re-evaluating a policy that 
pays students who inform on their peers, Superintendent Mike Stuart said.

The 5-year-old Secret Witness program is in place at Shasta, Foothill and 
Enterprise high schools. It offers students $20 to report others who 
allegedly bring drugs or weapons to school or threaten to harm others. 
Students receive the money only if the tip proves to be legitimate.

The policy came under fire in December after a 15-year-old Shasta High 
School student was falsely accused of bringing marijuana to school. The 
student was eventually exonerated and the students who made the accusations 
were punished, officials have said.

Stuart said the program, which generates a handful of leads each year, 
seems to have curbed the amount of drugs and weapons brought to school.

"Our overall objective is to get kids to do things for the right reasons," 
he said. "It's so dangerous to have drugs or weapons on campus. If somebody 
brings a gun to school . . . and shoots someone, then we (the district) are 

But the December incident has caused officials to consider other options 
rather than handing students cash for tips, Stuart said.

"We haven't changed anything yet," he said. "We're taking a look to see if 
we want to continue it."

Stuart said options include donating money to nonprofit organizations or 
discontinuing the program. Site councils and parent groups at each school 
are expected to discuss the future of the program, but the issue is not 
expected to go before the board of trustees anytime soon.

Shasta High Principal Milan Woollard agreed the program has helped keep the 
campus free of drugs and weapons. Between five and seven legitimate tips 
have been reported this school year on the west Redding campus, he said.

"I think it's a wonderful program. It's been very successful in weeding out 
drugs and knives," he said. "Our kids enjoy the program. They don't want 
drugs and knives on their campus. If we give them a little incentive, they 
give us a lot of information.

"But if there's a better way, we're open to it. I think anything's open to 
evaluation and improvement," Woollard added.

Michelle Gill of Redding, whose son was the one falsely accused of bringing 
drugs to school, said she hopes the district will eliminate the policy.

"I would be really happy about that," she said Friday. "It's not that I 
don't want kids to come forward. But money shouldn't be an issue. I think 
it sets kids up to be dishonest. I think we're setting a bad example for 
kids to tell them we have to pay them to do the right thing."
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