HOUSTON—An undercover police officer who spent months posing as a high school student is now talking about the prevalence of drugs in schools.
The undercover officer was in Cleveland, Texas on January 31 when ambulances rushed eight high school students to hospitals. Another eight were treated at school. It was all because of prescription pills that were popped on campus.
“There were several kids in my classes, you know, passing the pills and selling them, giving them to each other,” said the officer, who will be identified simply as Peggy. “Whenever they had consumed them, they were just falling down the stairs, falling out of their seats.”
For nearly two years, Peggy pretended to be a kid in the Cleveland Independent School District to catch drug dealers.
“We were trying to find out who was the one that was giving them out and who else had taken them,” she said.
At the middle school, she found marijuana and more.
“It was very prevalent. Some kids, I know, were experimenting with cocaine also,” she said.
In high school, prescriptions pills were far more common, Peggy said.
“They would have them in their pockets, in their backpacks,” she said. “They would pass them around like it was candy.”
The undercover officer said a variety of students were using drugs.
“I would see more kids in the hallways, right in front of teachers, on the water fountain, just popping pills. And it just seemed like no else was paying attention,” she said. “To me, it was very obvious. You could see it on these kids, their eyes were red, it was crazy to me.”
Her work led to 13 arrests in cases that she insisted could not be made any other way.
“It’s a way of actually catching the person, the person that is providing to them,” she said.
But her method is not welcome everywhere. Some people believe having undercover cops in schools invades privacy.
“It’s unfortunate that our present times have led us to that,” said Ken Carney, a parent.
Bill Cheatham, another parent, disagreed.
“If they’re there to protect them and they’re good officers, what’s the big deal, you know?”
Jerry Crowell, a principal at Angleton High School is a strong supporter of undercover work in schools.
“If you have drugs in your school at all you have a problem. So, for anyone to sit and put their head in the sand and say we don’t have a drug problem, they’re foolish,” Crowell said.
An undercover sting caught 14 of his students with prescription drugs earlier this year. He said he is seeing things change.
“I think that we’re always, unfortunately, going to have that percentage of population that are going to thumb their noses at whatever we do and dare us to catch them. And in the words of my police chief, 'If I don’t catch you today, I’ll catch you tomorrow,'” Crowell said.
The undercover officer said she just wants people to be aware and said it’s the only reason she’s sharing her story.
“The community needs to know and do something about it. They can’t just turn around, turn their backs to it and pretend everything’s fine,” she said.
In the Houston area, only Cleveland and Angleton have used undercover officers recently. Some districts think it’s too hard for an adult to slip in unnoticed. Other administrations think it’s simply an unacceptable liability.