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.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 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 In the months since September, he's become withdrawn, depressed, and he suffers from panic attacks.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.
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!