In a moment of sanity among elected officials, the South Middleton School Board unanimously voted to retain Boiling Springs wrestling coach and driver’s ed teacher Rodney Wright, who has a pending charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. This is a welcome decision at a time when so many school districts take a zero tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol, without looking at the individual facts of a case. The fact that Mr. Wright received overwhelming support form the Boiling Springs community is also quite refreshing. Mr. Wright has had a stellar record as a wrestling coach, and his $2,663 annual wrestling coach salary is a mere pittance when one considers the number of hours he spends coaching.
I previously blogged about Mr. Wright’s situation on April 15, 2013. Police received an anonymous tip that he had drug paraphernalia in his home, and someone granted them consent to search the home. The police found drug paraphernalia, and Mr. Wright was charged. Without consent, the police could not have lawfully searched the home, as they lacked enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant.
This case really bothers me, as it should anyone who cherishes freedom and individual liberty. First of all, what a teacher, or anyone for that matter, does in the privacy of his own home is nobody’s business, and it is very troubling that police would even follow up on an anonymous tip related to the possession of drug paraphernalia in a private home. Secondly, it is no secret that many teachers drink, and in fact, some are very heavy drinkers. Marijuana is a far safer drug than alcohol, so if Mr. Wright was using marijuana, kudos to him for making a healthier choice than alcohol.
It appears that Mr. Wright will be accepted into the ARD program, which is Pennsylvania’s primary pre-trial diversionary program for first time offenders. Most ARD defendants are charged with victimless crimes graded as misdemeanors, such as possession of illegal drugs or DUI with no accident resulting in injury to a third party. If a defendant successfully completes the ARD program, his or her attorney can file a petition seeking dismissal of the charge and expungement of all paper and electronic records and fingerprints and photographs associated with the case.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. He has extensive experience defending clients charged with drug offenses. He is the only State College attorney who is a member of the NORML Legal Committee. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Drug-Possession.shtml