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Street-Level Youth Media is a non-profit, media arts literacy organization serving Chicago's youth.  We teach audio engineering, mixing, video production, digital photography, online journalism, and more.  If you are between the ages of 12 through 24, all of our programs and services are free.

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Don’t Get Caught

Mild Sauce

A Youth-Run Webzine From Chicago.

Don’t Get Caught

Staff

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Students at Lincoln Park High School aren’t supposed to be allowed in and out during school time, and they’re definitely not supposed to sell or use drugs around the premises, so how is it happening?

By Alicia Lopez

The two most common reasons for leaving school would be to go out for lunch or participate in drug activity. Only seniors are allowed off campus lunch, any others caught off the premises would be taken back to school and handled accordingly.

The policy that’s supposed to be followed when entering the building is going through the metal detector. Bags are only searched if suspicious activity is observed. And example of suspicious activity might be that a student is suspected of being intoxicated.

“Many students have diminished respect for all forms of authority, including the authority of school personnel,” claims a report by the North Central Regional Education Laboratory(NCREL), a childhood development and teaching resource affiliated with Tufts University.

“As a result, schools are confronted with problems of students possessing weapons, students involved with gang recruitment and rivalry, and students engaged in drug trafficking, both as sellers and buyers,” the report says.

Noe Ramirez, a junior at Lincoln Park, describes how he maneuvers around school security when coming in and going out of school. His track record is not so good with most of the security guards -- he’s been in trouble countless times since freshman year.

“Going in and out, it’s a sort of game,” Ramirez says. He must find out where the stricter guards are, and then decipher from which door he can “make a run for it."

"The two most common reasons for leaving school would be to go out for lunch or participate in drug activity." Once out of school, he still needs to be cautious of the possible dangers of getting caught outside of the building, still on school property. Depending on who is out patrolling the area, he can either stay around school or be forced to get away from the school. If there are no guards out he can stay around “the pothead benches,” which is a typical hangout spot for marijuana users to smoke, or the “hotspots,” where drug sales go down.

Vince Muffitt, another Lincoln Park student, says that as a dealer he must also be cautious in and around school property. During school, students don’t necessarily have to go out of their way to make an exchange; they can literally just pass it to each other in the hall.  Before and after school, he and the other dealers are stationed at regular hotspots ready to make an exchange. If the area is “hot,” Muffitt along with other students involved in the activity might have to “take a walk,” so that they don’t get caught.

Getting back into school is now the new problem at hand.

It is easier for Muffitt to get back in school because he has not consumed any marijuana and therefore does not reek of it. And since security isn’t too strict on checking bags anymore he can get in without being stopped. For Ramirez, it might be a little harder to get in the front entrance if he “looks high or smells like marijuana.” If one of the “cool” security officers is at the front desk -- the one that sits facing the main school doors -- he will be okay.

“I go in with a group so the smell isn’t as strong,” Ramirez explains. “Security wouldn’t want to stop a whole group.”

“Johnson” a security officer at Lincoln Park who just goes by his surname, says that the procedure for following security protocol has definitely shifted since he started at the school nine years ago.

Johnson believes the policies have become less strict, but admits that his own practices have become lax as well. He knows that students try their very hardest to find ways around the security officers and the school policies.

His policy now? “Strict with safety, lax with the bullshit.” The safety of all staff and students is the priority, but if students decide to be reckless in their personal affairs it’s their own decision.

There are some cases where Johnson intervenes on a personal level when a student seems to be in trouble; he tries to talk to students and find out why they “do as they do and help them out.” But this is only if the student is willing to discuss what their situation might be. Having moved out of his mom’s house at the age of fifteen and getting into some legal issues before he became a guard, Johnson connects with the students and wants to help them out.

Another security officer in Lincoln Park, Rum, says that she follows all policies extremely strictly. Two years into her time there, her main concerns are that students get good grades and don’t cut class. Rum also says that she treats all students “equally” and with the same protocol, disagreeing with Johnson that it’s acceptable to give some students preferential treatment.

“If all the security officers were on the same page, and strictly followed all school policies, the school would be a safer environment,” she says.

Ramirez says that he has been caught high numerous times and not been disciplined by higher authority, due to officers not reporting such actions.

“That’s why a lot of people get away with it,” he says. “I don’t wanna get kicked out, but other than that it doesn’t prevent or make me wanna stop.”