50th Edition, Lifestyle

Rumors spread that South’s drug scene captured on camera

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Greg Walsh, Volume 18
March 21, 1979

Rumors and allegations have been spreading throughout the student body at South this past week, regarding the alleged photographing of NSHS’s students by officers of the Newton Police department.
The alleged photographs are being collected as evidence and information on suspected drug users and dealers. Other allegations made by members of the student body include that the NSHS administration and the Newton Police Department have made a list of suspected drug users and dealers that undercover narcotics officers are posing as substitute teachers, teacher aides, or maintenance men, and that busdrivers are being used to spy on and inform the NSHS administration of suspected drug users.
Denebola, upon investigation, learned that a busdriver voluntarily came to a house office and turned in a description of a group of students he believed to be smoking marijuana on the grate. At least one student was questioned by her housemaster, and was told to be careful.
Denebola investigated these allegations and others by interviewing officials both in the NSHS administration and in the Newton Police Department as well as members of the State Attorney General’s Office and students who frequented the suspected areas.
The “grate” (outside of the gym) and the “hill” (behind the cafeteria) are just two of the probable areas where police are suspected of having photographed students who are allegedly in the act of using or dealing drugs.
One anonymous source said he had learned that a NSHS student had had a conference with his housemaster and Officer Robert Braceland. At this conference, Braceland told the students about the photos.
Goodwin housemaster Paula Mealy said she had “no direct knowledge” of any pictures. Judy Malone, Cutler housemaster, said she had heard that Braceland had pictures, but had not seen them, and at that time she had not talked with Braceland about their existence.
Denebola called Officer Braceland and his only comment was that there in an “on-going drug investigation” in the city of Newton. This investigation includes surveillance which could include photography.
When asked for either lists or users of undercover agents, Braceland replied, “no comment,” saying he “could not be specific” in regard to any on-going investigation.
At the NPD’s Public Relations Office, Lieutenant Charles Feeley told Denebola that though he had no specific knowledge of any police photography at either high school, that photography was a commonly used method of investigation and surveillance. Pictures, he said, in this type of situation are used to build a case, not necessarily prove it.
Feeley added that anyone has a right to take pictures on public property, especially on the outside.
The students of South feel strongly about the issue of surveillance and photography.
“Yeah I think the police has pictures and I think it’s an invasion of privacy, said one student who hangs around the gate during her free blocks. She added, “sure sure some kids toke (smoke marijuana), but there’s a lot of kids who just go to relax in the sun and have a cigarette there during their free blocks. The grate is a hangout, just like the jock-corner or the cafeteria.”
Another student said, “If they’ve got pictures and use them, I don’t think they could tell the difference between a cigarette and a joint (marijuana cigarette) which could get innocent people in trouble.”
“South is becoming more and more like a jail,” said one student who believes she has been photographed, “with teachers on the inside and cops on the outside. But still, kids are going to toke. They’ll find a way, or turn to harder drugs like pills which they could pop in the bathroom.”
Malone attributes the suspected increase in police surveillance to a reaction to the increase in vandalism and also she said there is increased pressure from the neighborhood residents who drive by and see many students just relaxing outside, or worse.
They wonder why they are paying such high taxes for schooling and see so much ‘decadence’ in the area. They become upset and call the School Committee, the Mayor, NSHS, or even the police.
The awareness of drug-related problems at South seems to be increasing. This year, approximately 10 students have been caught possessing narcotics.
Wicks and Mealy have had a number of student-parent conferences based on just suspicion or circumstantial evidence, such as marked drop in grades, aberrant behavior in class, and increase in skipping class.
Regardless of the increased awareness of drug issues and heightening suspicions about police and administrative activity, it does not appear that drug use is going to stop at South.
As one student said, “I don’t believe there’s pictures. It’s just to scare us and it has….but it won’t stop us from smokin’ somewhere else.”

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