Monday, March 16, 2015


What kind of adults make rules like this?  One regular reader of this blog will point out that this behavior on the part of administrators is completely understandable given the perverse system of rewards and punishments that school administrators live under.  I counter that their living under a perverse system is not an excuse to require children to live under a perverse system:
Earlier this school year, a sixth-grader in the gifted-and-talented program at Bedford Middle School in Bedford, Virginia was suspended for one year after an assistant principal found something that looked like a marijuana leaf in his backpack.

The student, the 11-year-old son of two school teachers, had to enroll in the district's alternative education program and be homeschooled. He was evaluated by a psychiatrist for substance abuse problems, and charged with marijuana possession in juvenile court. In the months since September, he's become withdrawn, depressed, and he suffers from panic attacks. He is worried his life is over, according to his mother, and that he will never get into college.

The only problem? The "leaf" found in the student's backpack wasn't what authorities thought it was -- it tested negative for marijuana three separate times.

All of this is laid out in detail by Dan Casey in a column in the Roanoke Times today. While the juvenile court dropped its case against the student after the tests turned up negative, the school system, in a community located midway between Roanoke and Lynchburg, has been far less forgiving. That's because stringent anti-drug policies in school districts in Virginia and elsewhere consider "imitation" drugs to be identical to real ones for disciplinary purposes.
Getting kicked out of school for drugs, no actual drugs necessary.  It's like getting kicked out of school for firearms for pointing your finger at another kid and "shooting", like every normal kid has done since the invention of firearms.  Or merely for biting a Pop-Tart into something that might appear to some to look something like a firearm.
The Bedford sixth-grader has been allowed to return to school starting today. But he has to attend a different school, separate from his former friends and peers, and he's still under strict probation until this September. The terms of his original suspension letter state that he'll be searched for drugs at the beginning and end of every school day until his probation is over.
School officials should be searched at the beginning and end of every school day for signs of intelligence.  I'm sure that such signs will be found just as often as drugs will be on the 6th grader in question.

Hat tip for the link to a reader who so far doesn't comment--but I'm glad she sent this!


maxutils said...

I know you need to post stories like this, and I know I'm supposed to comment on them, and … I just can't this time. My head hurts. So instead, I'm going to mention that I had contact with one of my son's teachers today, who waived an administrator's rule because she believed it would be in his best interests. So there is good out there.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the dreaded administrator who I refer to as 'meat on feet'. I'm a biologist so I am qualified to say that.

Been there, done that. Perfectly good well run school on year and a disaster next year due to retirement and transfer in of administrator who only knew to use authority as a massive club.

Fortunately the district had a strong union and a solid contract. Say what you will about unions, it saved several careers on that occasion.


Jean said...

I saw the photo. It's a tree leaf. It's *obviously* a tree leaf. Ridiculous and heartbreaking. Poor kid.

Darren said...

Well of course there's good out there. My issue is that there's too much stupidity out there. In the real world you have to tolerate a little stupidity--we don't live in Utopia. But there is *too much*, especially in this story.

maxutils said...

I wasn't trying to contradict you. This story was too ridiculous to excoriate… So I just thought I'd share a happy education moment.

Ellen K said...

Similar story a few years back at a track meet a girl went into an asthma attack but had forgotten her rescue inhaler. Her boyfriend, also on the track team, gave her his. Both kids were scholar athletes heading to college on scholarships. The district imposed their absolutist no tolerance rules and both kids ended up in alternative school, losing scholarships and class rank. I guess they would have been happier had the girl died. Having had a brother with acute asthma, I assure you this can happen. That boy probably saved her life.

Anonymous said...

Knowing some of the teachers I've taught with over the years, wonder if all of them could have survived such a careful attention to their belongings. I think there are too many frivolous lawsuits out there, but in this case real harm has been done to this boy.

Darren said...

I remember the asthma story, Ellen K.

And I, too, have known teachers who would fail a search of their belongings each day.