The November 5, 2003 police raid of Stratford High School was recorded by both the school’s surveillance cameras and a police camera. The tapes show students as young as 14 forced to the ground as officers in SWAT team uniforms and bulletproof vests lead a drug dog to search their book bags. Only a few students were restrained. The ACLU represents 20 of the nearly 120 students caught up in the raid.
The raid was brought about by discussion between the school’s principal at the time, George McCrackin, and the City of Goose Creek police department. Due to threats and many placing the blame for the raid on him, McCrackin resigned shortly after the tapes surfaced on national television. The raid was authorized based on the principal’s suspicion that several students were dealing marijuana, but was not organized or planned by McCrackin or the school's administration. No drugs or weapons were found during the raid and no charges were filed.
As 16-year-old Joshua Ody, one of the students caught up in the raid, put it, “I felt like I had less rights than other people that day”.
On July 10, 2006, a settlement was reached that awarded $1.6 million to the students in the law suit, of which $1.2 million was divided among the students, and the remaining $400,000 to be used in legal fees.
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Following the raid, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of students’ families charging police and school officials with violating the students’ right to be free from unlawful search and seizure and use of excessive force. The lawsuit demanded a court order declaring the raid unconstitutional and blocking the future use of such tactics, as well as damages on behalf of the students.
In addition to recognizing students’ rights to be free from unconstitutional search and seizure and restricting police tactics, the settlement establishes a $1.6 million dollar fund to compensate the students and help cover medical and counseling costs from the incident.
The cost of the settlement will be paid by the city of Goose Creek, the Goose Creek Police Department, and the Berkeley County School District where the school is located, with assistance from their respective insurance companies.
It is not yet known exactly how many of the nearly 120 students will accept the settlement. The offer came in response to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 53 students, of which the ACLU’s lawsuit is a part. While both sides have agreed to the terms of the settlement, it will be technically final in July 2006, when it is expected to receive judicial approval.