Friday, February 27, 2009


By L.J. Williamson | Opinion in the Daily News

2/26/09 -- I'm a former student of George K. Porter Middle School in Granada Hills. Between my memories of my experience there and the experiences I've had as the parent of a student in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I'm not at all surprised to learn that the administrators at Porter may have bungled an attempted drug sting.

The principal at my son's elementary school is fond of repeating, "Safety is my No. 1 priority."

To which I've felt tempted to reply, "Shouldn't education be your No. 1 priority?"

Of course safety is important to a learning environment; children can't learn if they don't feel safe. Yet school administrators often let their primary responsibilities as educators take a back seat to a sense of themselves as something akin to police operatives.

If Porter's officials suspected illegal activity, instead of trying to play at being undercover cops, as was alleged, and attempting to employ an innocent child as a narcotics officer, they should have immediately involved the real authorities.

This sort of thing is the reason we have an entire school police force: so that administrators can hand over these sorts of problems and get back to the business of educating.

Yet LAUSD's policies too often encourage school principals to treat their campuses as their own little fiefdoms, making and enforcing rules at will. Often times the results are ill-advised.

In the past, I've even had administrators at my son's school quote rules to me, which, when I attempted to verify them, turned out to be nonexistent. Yet if those fabricated rules suited the administrators' needs at a given moment, that meant that the administrator's word was as good as law.

During my days at Porter, I often felt that school officials treated students with a lack of respect, and acted more in the arrogant manner of an autocratic regime instead of the way in which those who hold the education and development of young people as their primary interest should. Of course, I was a frustrated 14-year-old at the time, so no one would listen to me.

Now that I'm 40, it's gratifying to learn that perhaps my suspicions weren't just pointless adolescent angst and that, sometimes, if school administrators overstep their boundaries, there are consequences.

L.J. Williamson is a freelance writer living in Granada Hills. Readers may contact her via her website at

●●smf’s 2¢: Ms. Williamson's son’s principal is correct: Safety is correctly the principal’s, classroom teacher’s and school district’s # 1 priority.  That being said the alleged shenanigans and amateur undercover policework is absolutely inexcusable. Putting  a student – innocent or not - in the position of undercover narc – if it happened – is criminal endangerment.

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