The Child Protective Services workers who showed up at Shona Banda’s door in 2015 to remove the Kansas woman’s 11-year-old son from her custody weren’t there for the typical reasons. Banda’s ex hadn’t phoned to report, falsely or not, that their child was being starved, left unattended, or otherwise parented poorly; Banda wasn’t spied spanking or physically disciplining her child (both are legitimate uses of force, until they are not) by the local neighborhood busybody. No, here, it was teachers and school officials who were playing drug cops.
Banda and her family became unwitting victims of a school system that has decided the education racket is for the birds, and real schools are also drug cops, in the business of enforcing drug laws.
In Banda’s case, her precocious 11-year-old felt the need to speak up during a classroom indoctrination session on marijuana and its pernicious evils. (These are also known as taxpayer-funded “drug education” classes.) You know the drill: Weed is bad, weed is poison, weed will ruin your life.
Banda’s son knew that what he was hearing was false; after all, he said, his mother uses cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease. Without it, she could not function. My mom, she “smokes a lot,” the child said. The subtext here is that “my mom smokes a lot” and is still able to bathe, dress and feed me and bring me to school on time. That’s a teachable moment—but that would be a waste of a good opportunity to play drug cop.
The teacher’s ears perked up. Banda’s son was asked to provide more information. He did—what kid doesn’t spill beans in an interrogation in the principal’s office—and so later, both the police and child protective services showed up at Banda’s home.
The son was removed from his home and his mother and placed into protective custody, and Banda was arrested and charged with five felonies, including child endangerment. Banda eventually pleaded to possession of drug paraphernalia and will serve 12 months of probation from her new home in Spokane, Washington, to where she relocated after this ordeal.
We retell this story as necessary context in order to tell you this one.
Ethan Gomez is six years old and lives in the Bronx, where he’s a first grader at PS 209 in New York City’s public school system—and where he’s been twice grilled by a principal and an after-school administrator about whether his family uses drugs in their home.
As the New York Daily News recently reported, Ethan’s aunt showed up at school one afternoon to pick him up and take him home when the kid let drop that his teacher had asked him if “there were drugs being used around him or in front of him.” Ethan responded in the negative, but apparently, that didn’t satisfy his educator, who started sniffing the child’s clothes. Other students took notice and joined in, “sniffing him too” for sport, his mother, Ariel Gomez, told the newspaper.
All that could just be chalked up to bullying—mob behavior. You know, typical stuff.
But a few weeks later, after Ethan had been out of school for symptoms related to his asthma, a truancy officer showed up at the Gomez home. Ethan’s mom and aunt say they visited the school that day to meet with the principal, Ann Keegan, but couldn’t get an appointment.
The next afternoon, after Ethan had returned to school, he was allegedly interrogated yet again—and this time, sniffed by Principal Keegan. Now, Ethan has panic attacks and is afraid to go to school, and is doubly afraid that school administrators are looking for a reason to sic Child Protective Services on his family, the newspaper reported.
“He tells me the principal asked him if anyone was using drugs in the house, and asked him about the questions the other teacher asked him,” Ariel Gomez told the News. “He said he was scared, uncomfortable, his heart was racing.”
“To question him again about drug abuse, is unbelievable,” added Sarae Gomez, the child’s aunt. “Instead of healing the situation, they’re bringing chaos to our family. They’re not supposed to keep a constant fear in the child.”
After the Gomez family contacted local activists, including Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, school officials are now under investigation from the city Department of Education.
According to city policy, “under no circumstance are they supposed to question a student unless under extreme circumstances if the child comes to them about being in danger,” as NAN’s Rev. Kevin McCall told the News.
Ariel Gomez is now looking to transfer her child to another school.
It’s easy to dismiss one of the aforementioned scenarios as an isolated incident. You could even downplay both—they’re just two students, more than a thousand miles apart, in a nation of more than 300 million. The fact is that law enforcement absolutely believes that school grounds are their turf, just like street corners, and this mentality has started to seep into educators’ mindsets.
Undercover deputies have been posing as new transfers in order to build cases against high school students for years. When that takes too much time or effort, drug cops will simply march into a school, put it on lockdown and spend four hours systematically groping 900 kids, touching girls under their bras and grabbing genitals, all without a warrant.
Do you still doubt the theory of a school-to-prison pipeline in action, even after seeing it in action, and after innovations designed to speed up the transition from classroom to cell? If so, you still better have The Talk with your school-age kids if you want to avoid an after-school visit from the authorities.