Excuse for Drug-Dealing Teacher
By Doug Patton
has a newspaper article made me as angry as the story of a recent drug bust in
Omaha. It reported the arrest of 33-year-old Jolene Cortez for possession of
methamphetamine with intent to deliver. Apparently, she had a scale and $2,775
in cash in her apartment, too. Sounds routine, doesn’t it? Open and shut. Just
like cases all over the country. Well, not quite.
to the sympathetic portrayal of Cortez in the Omaha
she was a loving, single mother and elementary school teacher who, though she
shopped at thrift stores and ate leftovers, felt obligated to sell
methamphetamine in order to make ends meet. Can’t you just hear the violins
about her alleged financial hardship, Cortez complained that she could not pay
her rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, gas, food, student loans and the
expenses of raising a child, including after-school day care, on her $30,841 a
year teacher’s salary.
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overwhelming,” she told newspaper reporter Kristen Zagurski, who, based on the
tone of her article, ate up this drivel with a spoon. “It’s hard to make it
on the salary that they gave us. I don’t want to live lavishly, but I would
like, if my son needs a haircut, to be able to get a haircut for him. I needed a
little bit of help.”
think I feel a tear coming on.
were the obligatory quotes from friends and acquaintances who said that Jolene
Cortez was, in fact, a fine person who would never hurt anyone. One neighbor
even said that although she doesn’t condone drug activity, she doesn’t blame
Jolene if what she is accused of doing turns out to be true. “She was just
trying to make ends meet,” the neighbor said.
article went on to inform us that Cortez denied doing anything illegal around
her son or at school, and that she doesn’t take drugs herself.
that nice? I feel all warm and fuzzy about her lawbreaking now. She has a set of
rules she follows for her felonious conduct, and a sense of responsibility
toward the people she loves. She would never do anything to hurt them. She’s
an ethical drug dealer. All she did was help others destroy their lives by
selling them one of the most corrosive and addictive substances ever concocted.
Jolene Cortez’s cavalier attitude toward her drug dealing is the viewpoint of
the school officials, who have suspended her with pay, and the newspaper
editors, whose pursuit of an agenda apparently justifies portraying a criminal
in a sympathetic light in order to call attention to the issue of teacher pay.
don’t care about this woman’s excuses for her criminal activity. I don’t
care about her financial hardships. Other people, including teachers, live on
less than she is being paid. They take second and even third jobs to “make
ends meet.” They don’t contribute to the addiction and the deaths of other
people by selling drugs.
who have seen the lives of loved ones disintegrate before their very eyes
because of methamphetamine addiction have nothing but contempt for this woman.
Cortez says she is “not a bad person.” I want to lead the chorus of those
shouting, in unison, “YES, YOU ARE!”
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the charges against Jolene Cortez are proven true, there is no justification for
what she has done. She should be sentenced to hard time, and every day she is in
prison someone should come to her cell and ask her how she would feel if, in
another few years, a loving, caring person — perhaps a teacher — were to
sell meth to her son.
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter, policy advisor and communications director for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly columns are published in newspapers across the country and on selected Internet websites. Readers can e-mail him at email@example.com.