A sixth-grader was suspended for an entire year from a school in Virginia after being found with a marijuana leaf and a lighter in his backpack. After the sheriff’s department was also notified of the situation, drug possession charges were filed against the boy.
Bruce and Linda Bays, the boy’s parents, said they have heard a variety of stories of what happened the day their boy, who had been enrolled in the gifted and talented program at Bedford Middle School, was found in possession of the leaf. One version had the boy showing the leaf off in a bathroom, another said he had it out in homeroom, and yet another said he was showing his friends on the school bus that morning.
Linda Bays told the Roanoke Times ‘I asked, “Can I see the leaf?” and the deputy said, “No, it’s already in evidence.” We have never seen the leaf. He’s been out of school for six months.’
The boy immediately received a 10-day suspension, which was increased to a full year during an administrative hearing last September.
However, months later, the charges were dropped and the unnamed boy has been allowed to return to school this week. After three separate field tests, authorities discovered that the leaf was not, in fact, marijuana.
Despite being allowed back to school, officials maintain that because “lookalike” drugs are also prohibited on school grounds, the boy could still be in violation of district policy.
The family has found legal representation and is suing the school, saying they have changed their story with regards to the boy’s punishment and their handling of the situation in general.
“Essentially they kicked him out of school for something they couldn’t prove he did,” explained family attorney Melvin Williams.
Williams went on to say that school resource officer M.M. Calohan should not have testified that the leaf found in the boy’s possession was marijuana.
“The field test came back not inconclusive,” Williams explained, “but negative. Yet she went to a magistrate and swore he possessed marijuana at school.”
As part of his punishment, the boy was offered the choice of either attending a school for delinquents or participating in an online program while under suspension. He chose to stay at home. As a result of the situation, reports say he has suffered from emotional issues that caused him to fall behind in his schoolwork, writes B. Christopher Agee for Western Journalism.
The boy was also ordered to participate in a drug abuse treatment program despite a lack of evidence that he actually used any drugs.
The attorney representing the sheriff’s department maintains that the fact that the leaf is not actually marijuana is not important to the case, as students are subject to “the same punishment and exactly the same result” whether they are found with an actual drug or simply a lookalike.