Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Try Rewards on Drug Violator Tips

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Try Rewards on Drug Violator Tips

Article excerpt

Byline: Dana Treen, Times-Union staff writer

After two seventh-grade girls came to teacher Tom Payne at the end of the last school year and said they had been forced to buy drugs from another student, he was shocked.

"Either you buy it from us or we're going to kick your butts," Payne said the girls were told. "It was terrible."

His solution? Dig into his own pockets and offer $100 rewards to students who identify students with drugs on the Highlands Middle School campus. The effort has increased arrests, Payne and others said, and has administrators at the Jacksonville school considering turning it into a policy, but not until a closer review that starts next week is completed.

"I didn't want students to feel scared," said Payne, an eighth-grade teacher this year.

Word that the 47-year-old history teacher was confidentially paying for information about drugs has filtered out and results have been measurable. Single marijuana cigarettes or small amounts of drugs are the norm, but other students have had enough to be suspected of selling, he said.

"There have been several tips that have led to arrests," said Payne, who estimated he had paid out $400. "Suddenly, the kids did feel better."

Reaction to the rewards program has been mixed.

"That's not something that we are going to endorse," said Assistant Chief Mike Rutledge of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "You pit kids against each other, and you don't ever want to do that."

He said he also has concerns about the information standing up in court and noted that drugs are not a significant problem at the school.

Sheryl McDuffie, president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association, said she sees two sides.

"I think it's a good idea in that hopefully it will encourage kids to talk about it," she said. "My only concern is I hope the kids don't turn it around and try to get someone in trouble who has nothing to do with drugs."

At first, Payne offered the rewards quietly. …

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