04/28/05 — School informant program working at Eastern Wayne

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School informant program working at Eastern Wayne

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 28, 2005 1:50 PM

A Wayne County Public Schools policy that allows high school principals to pay students $100 to turn in other students who bring drugs or weapons on campus has resulted in several confiscations and suspensions at Eastern Wayne High School.

Eastern Wayne is the only school in the county that has made use of the policy, administration officials say.

The administration leaves the decision of whether to take advantage of the policy up to each principal, said Kristy Fair, district public relations officer.

Principal Morris Kornegay of Eastern Wayne said he has taken advantage of the policy for about nine years. He said students who provide information about classmates are paid $100 for each disclosure. Kornegay said the policy results in about three or four drug confiscations a year.

In the Eastern Wayne High student handbook, the policy is described as being part of the Crime Stoppers informant program sponsored by local law enforcement agencies. But the money to pay school informants does not come from Crime Stoppers. It comes from student photo sales or from the school's share of vending machine profits.

Kornegay said he believes the program is a good way to stop students from bringing drugs or weapons on campus.

"If they pull drugs out of their jeans, they could be turned in by an informant," he said.

But the program apparently also opens the door for misuse.

Recently, administrators were forced to rescind the decision to suspend a 15-year-old Eastern Wayne student accused by another student of having drugs because law officers decided the informant's information was not credible.

The student who was suspended was found to have drugs in his locker. But Sheriff Carey Winders said that the informant turned in another student the same week. That sent up a red flag, Winders said, and investigators discovered the informant had a criminal record himself.

"We had some questions about the reliability of the evidence due to the fact that the same informant made another bust within the next few days, and that he had been convicted of some crimes," Winders said.

He said he was also unaware, until the school resource officer told him, that schools were allowed to pay informants.

The school sent a letter to the parents of the suspended teenager, apologizing for the incident.

Ms. Fair said the incident was an "isolated case."

"Privacy laws would prevent me from talking about the case," she said, "but I don't think anything like that has happened before."

Ms. Fair said the other high schools in the county do not pay students to inform on classmates but have chosen to let students pass information along to Crime Stoppers.