Pubdate: Sat, 06 Dec 2003
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003 The State
Author: Lauren Leach, Staff Writer


Group Seeks Money for Damages, Injunction Against Another Such Raid

Seventeen Stratford High School students are suing the city of Goose
Creek and the Berkeley County school district in federal court,
alleging police and school officials terrorized them in a drug raid
last month.

Individuals named as defendants in the suit, filed Friday in U.S.
District Court in Charleston, include: Stratford High School principal
George McCrackin; Berkeley County school superintendent Chester Floyd;
Goose Creek police Chief Harvey Becker; and Goose Creek police Lt.
Dave Aarons.

The suit also names the city of Goose Creek, its police department and
the Berkeley County School District as defendants.

School officials declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit but
expressed regret about the incident.

The Nov. 5 raid by police and school officials has created a national
firestorm, in part because it was caught on videotape by the school
and made available to a local television reporter.

Stratford officials have said they had reason to believe drugs were
being sold in the hallway before classes started, but no drugs were
found in the raid.

Some Stratford students were arrested on drug-related charges earlier
this year.

In the lawsuit, the 17 students asked for an unspecified amount of
money for damages and an injunction against another such raid.

They also asked for a declaration that their constitutional rights had
been violated.

The suit charges the students' Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were
violated. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable
search and seizure; the 14th forbids states from depriving "any person
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The suit also levels charges of assault, battery and false

McCrackin "planned, ordered, orchestrated and executed the Nov. 5 raid
on the Stratford campus," the suit said.

The school district, the police department and McCrackin bear
responsibility for what happened, the suit said, in part because they
failed to train and supervise their employees prior to the raid.

The suit also said McCrackin "has made clear" that the raid "will be
and is the standard policy for Stratford's administration."

When contacted Friday, McCrackin said he had not received any
information about the lawsuit. "Even if I had, I can't comment," he

Floyd said he heard about the lawsuit Friday afternoon and did not
have a copy of the suit, but described the matter as "very

"We've had local, state, national and international news coverage on
this," Floyd said. "It's a month old. I'm trying to get everything
back to normal. I'm sorry it all happened. I'm sorry it's a lawsuit."

In the suit, the students provide details of what happened to them on
Nov. 5 when police burst into the school to conduct the raid. Maurice
Harris, a 14-year-old freshman, said one officer pointed a gun at his
face. "Maurice can still see the end of the barrel looking him in his
face," the suit said.

The suit comes one day after Ninth Circuit Solicitor Ralph Hoisington
of Charleston turned over the case to South Carolina's attorney
general. His announcement angered parents who attended the news
conference at Goose Creek City Hall.

Attorneys for the students said Hoisington's decision played no part
in the decision to file suit.

"It was already going to happen," said Dwayne Green of Charleston, one
of the students' attorneys. "I share the concern that many members of
our community have that children shouldn't have to go through those
types of tactics or procedures. I think there is a general concern
that no one would want that to happen to their children."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a South Carolina native, traveled to the
Lowcountry this week and announced plans for a Dec. 16 rally to
protest the drug raid. 
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