Special Assignment: Drugs in School

News 12 at 6:00, May 19, 2008

AUGUSTA -- A former Richmond County school resource officer is speaking out, and he's talking about drugs in your child's school.

B.O.E. officers are under a gag order when they're on the job, so they can't talk to the media. However, now that Courtland Hooper is no longer working for the school district, he's free to say whatever he wants, and he's holding nothing back.

When you see a crowded hallway, you see a school, but a school resource officer sees something else. When Courtland Hooper worked for the district, he saw it as an indoor city with "all these neighborhoods being thrown together, gangs thrown together. You didn't have the manpower to deal with it."

"Dealing with it" is patrolling 20,000 square feet, which Hooper did for three years. he says he saw more in those halls than he ever did on the street in his ten years as a cop.

"My biggest bust ever was working for the school system."

As a resource officer, he told his wife about the drugs and the gangs, but he couldn't tell anyone else. Now that he has another job, he can.

"We were so surprised and taken back, that our youngest child is home schooled," says Hooper. "We will not allow her to go to a Richmond County school. I would say you could probably get anything you want in 24 to 48 hours, any type of drug."

News 12 took Hooper's story to Richmond County Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden.

He says he knows drugs are a problem. "We've got to stop being naive about what our children are being exposed to, and realize they're subject to a whole lot more than we thought," he said.

Dr. Bedden says he's working on making school safer but he can't do it alone. "If everyone does their part, no one has to do a lot. The problem is when one person drops off, and somebody has to pick up that load, and we're over-working that person."

A lot of times, Dr. Bedden says it's the parents who are dropping off, leaving the school to raise their students. He believes, sometimes, "We're asked to be a lot more than we should be."

Hooper couldn't agree more. "If the village does not come together to raise the children, then we will never have a grasp on this problem."

Until then, though. Hooper will keep his daughter away from this village, out of these schools. He's simply seen too much.

Hooper isn't bitter about that or upset with the school system. In fact, he says he thinks Richmond County is doing everything it can to fix the problem. It's just that the problem is that big.

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