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Students shocked by teacher's arrest

March 31, 2004

Jackson Bell

When Mario Oscal was in Yvette Wright's economics class last

semester, he never would have guessed his eccentric teacher would be

arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine.

Mario, 17, a senior at John Burroughs High School, said he and his

classmates liked Wright because of her "crazy, wild" behavior and

entertaining personality.

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"Sometimes, she would randomly laugh in class or talk about one

subject and go right into another [with no transition]," he said. "I

just thought that she was weird, and that was part of her

personality."

Wright, 58, is facing possible drug charges after she was arrested

Thursday on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine. A school staffer

allegedly found the drug in Wright's purse after she left it in the

school's office.

The case is under investigation by Burbank Police, Sgt. Brian

Matthews said. Wright is scheduled to be arraigned May 8 in Burbank

Superior Court.

Wright has been on paid leave since the arrest, and a substitute

teacher has been covering her classes until the case is resolved.

Sandra Gale, whose daughter is a senior at the school, said a

teacher arrested on suspicion of drug use sends the worst possible

message to students.

"Kids look up to their teachers," Gale said. "And when their own

teachers are violating the law, the questions [parents] should be

asking are, 'Who is in charge of hiring?' and 'Are they qualified?' "

School officials, calling the incident "very unusual," said they

have been more active in their efforts to rid classrooms of drugs.

For example, a program began two months ago that uses K-9 dogs to

search for drugs and weapons, said Alexis Sheehy, assistant

superintendent for instruct- ional services at the Burbank Unified

School District.

However, neither the school nor the district has plans to change

its policies or operations in the wake of the arrest, she said.

"We're already taking really positive steps," Sheehy said. "In the

meantime, everyone is taken aback, and we hope this will turn out for

the best."

The school district gives pre-employment drug tests to new faculty

members. Wright was hired in 1991, before the policy was in place.

What perplexes most faculty members and students about Wright is

that she is a well-liked teacher and academic decathlon coach known

for her upbeat and encouraging teaching style.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke because Mrs.

Wright is not the type of person you expect to get arrested," said

Carla Lorenzo, 17, a senior who took Wright's economics class last

semester.

Kim Rizzo, 16, a junior, said the school's administration made no

announcement to the student body, but most everyone at school knew

about it by Friday.

"I was shocked, because I've never heard of teachers using drugs

before," Kim said.

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