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Students question report on drug arrests

By MARGO HORNER and ANDY HOBBS

The Mirror

A recent drug and weapons sting at three Federal Way high schools has some students angry about undercover officers attending classes with them.

Three weeks ago, Federal Way police arrested 12 students and two adults on drug and weapons charges after an undercover operation in which officers posed as students at Federal Way, Todd Beamer and Decatur high schools.

The officers, a 29-year-old woman and a 33-year-old man, attended classes for about four months and made contacts with students to purchase drugs. Only the school board and the principals at each school knew the pair were police officers.

Students in at least one class at Todd Beamer are outraged by the drug busts, senior Alyssa Dale said on Wednesday, calling from her classroom.

Dale said that a story last week in The Mirror did not accurately represent how some students felt about the police operation.

The story, in the June 9 edition, described how some students at Federal Way High School supported the undercover sting.

The Federal Way students quoted were "good students" and members of the Associated Student Body, Dale said. They represented only a minority of viewpoints, she said.

Mixing with the media

The Federal Way students quoted in the June 9 story were selected for interviews by school officials. Another school official would not allow a Mirror reporter to talk to students who weren't chosen in advance.

By law, all district students have a "yellow card" that indicates whether they received parental permission to be photographed or speak to the media.

To comply with this regulation, principals and counselors pick students with parental permission to talk to the media, said district spokeswoman Diane Turner.

To sidestep this procedure, media members will often wait outside school grounds to approach students for comment.

"We don't allow media on campus unless we help coordinate. That's any media," Turner said. "If anybody wants to come forward because they think it's a rotten idea or don't agree, they can go to the principal and say, ‘We have a different point of view.’"

Turner added: "We don't tell (the students) what to say."

For the June 9 story, Federal Way High School assistant principal Shay Short selected students from a demographically-diverse leadership class to talk with The Mirror, said principal Lisa Griebel. The leadership class, which is an open elective, contains several Associated Student Body officers who are voted on by the student population.

"They are smart kids. They said some amazing things, but it wasn't because they were prepped ahead of time," Griebel said of the students quoted for the story.

The undercover sting quickly circulated as a conversation topic among students, Griebel said. Several students and teachers eventually figured out who the undercover officer was, said Griebel, the only one in the school with prior knowledge of the police operation.

Students who interacted with the officer likely felt the greatest impact from the sting, Griebel said. She cited an incident in which one teacher mediated a disagreement between the undercover officer and students over a class project.

During the investigation, many students also shied away from the undercover officer because she gave the impression of being involved with illegal activities, Griebel said.

"I think those were the students who were impacted most, the ones who sat next to her and tried to be friends with her for other reasons than purchasing drugs," Griebel said.

Invasion of privacy?

Todd Beamer student Alyssa Dale said an undercover officer attended the class that she and her peers called from on Wednesday. Some students feel the undercover operation was an invasion of their privacy.

Discovering that they had been lied to disrupted the class and relationships among students, Dale said.

"We're not going to feel comfortable talking about things if someone needs help," she said, adding that students now have a difficult time knowing who to trust.

Dale said she and other students in the class care about safety at school, but they would like to see police focus their efforts off campus.

Students who attended class with the officers shouldn't be concerned about their personal information being collected by police, said Stacy Flores, spokeswoman for the Federal Way Police Department.

The only information officers collected was directly related to the sale of drugs and weapons, Flores said.

"I don't believe that they were taking photos," Flores said. "They didn't have any type of recording devices in the class that (students) should be concerned."

Flores said that there are no further arrests planned in connection with the undercover operation.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

To read previous coverage of the undercover police sting at three Federal Way high schools, visit www.fedwaymirror.com or see The Mirror's June 2 and June 9 editions.

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