School Claims Teen's Writing About Marijuana Use Is 'Drug Possession'

from the writing-is-9/10ths-of-the-law dept

The latest illegal high to hit high schools? Writing about drug use.

Last May, a teenager was punished with a lengthy suspension after teachers discovered her folder which contained stories with references to marijuana use. Her father is now speaking out and appealing the school’s decision.

Tom Grayhorse, father of Krystal Grayhorse, told Ozarks First that he was called by Buffalo High School’s assistant principal after staff found Krystal’s folder containing the stories at the school and were “alarmed by the contents of the notebook.”

“She wrote about making out with a boy- well, you know, she’s a teenager- and also about having some pot then eating it and swallowing it at the school,” said Tom Grayhorse.

So, a student’s personal notebook — not one belonging to the school or any particular class — was left behind and read by a member of school administration, who then “freaked out” and brought it to the attention of school officials.

Grayhorse can only imagine what was actually written by his daughter because the school has refused to provide him with copies of the objectionable writing.

He went to the school for a meeting but was told he couldn’t see the notebook because it’s considered evidence, and that his daughter would be suspended for ten days.

Yes, the school went full cop on him, claiming the evidence was so secret it couldn’t even be seen by the legal guardian of the minor involved. The ten-day suspension has now been extended until January 2015, thanks to its “zero tolerance” drug policies, even though no actual drugs were involved. District Superintendent Robin Ritchie offered this deferral to policy by way of “explanation.”

“If they give a ten-day suspension it comes to me as the superintendent and then it is my decision to look back at it and see if an extended suspension is in order…our drug and alcohol policies permit for several different consequences that can be given out. And most of the time it’s 1 to 180 days that students can be suspended,” Ritchie said.

Apparently, in this case, the decision was to use the full 180 days, stretching from the original suspension in May to early 2015. Obviously, this will have a negative impact on the student’s hope of graduating on time, but the district has been less than helpful in ensuring the drugless drug violator will be able to stay on schedule.

“I asked them about alternate schooling for people that had been suspended and they said they didn’t have it,” says Grayhorse.

Superintendent Ritchie has suggested night classes, but there doesn’t seem to be anything on its website or in its policies that addresses the educational options for suspended students.

Then there’s this detail, which may have some crying “#notallsuperintendents!” — according to both the student’s father and investigating officials, the student claimed to have had drugs in her possession, if only temporarily.

Grayhorse claims his daughter didn’t have the drugs, even though she admitted to a school officer that she did.

“She’d confess to almost anything, within reason, just to get [the questioning] over with. Somehow she allegedly had some [marijuana]. And she ate it and swallowed it and that took care of it and it was gone.”

So, that would explain the “drug possession” named in the suspension report… except for this fact.

[Grayhorse] said [his daughter] was not tested for drugs.

Well, why not? And why didn’t the school exercise some of the other options it offers students with drug issues, rather than pull the trigger on a lengthy suspension?

[Superintendent] Ritchie said the hypothetical discovery of a first-person story involving the use of a controlled substance, even at school, would “not necessarily” trigger a suspension. She added that school counselors have been trained to direct families to resources in the community if there’s any hint of alcohol or drug use in a student.

The superintendent, while refusing to address specifics, says that the student’s written “drug possession” wouldn’t necessarily trigger a suspension and that the family could have been approached first about the theoretical drug problem. But the school didn’t do any of this and Ritchie’s noncommittal, non-specific statements back this up. She claims it all runs through her. So, the extended suspension, as well as the avoidance of less punitive actions, were OKed by her.

Devil’s advocate says that if the student truly had drugs in her possession, this would all have been uncovered much more quickly and never would have become another quickly-circulating example of stupid school administration behavior. But withholding the evidence from the parent, as well as the lack of other verification like a drug test, points to a zero tolerance hammer converting another student into a more compliant nail.

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Comments on “School Claims Teen's Writing About Marijuana Use Is 'Drug Possession'”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

She should have doodled a picture of Pedobear,

Joke or not…it is absolutely amazing to me the trouble I would have gotten into in school had I been going there now.

My teachers and other students were well aware of our pranks, and we never got into trouble then because folks in charge had a sense of humor and we didn’t do anything to hurt anyone (at least, not our intention to hurt anyone, though sometimes we hurt ourselves when we got a little overzealous in our pranks.)

My friends and I collaborated on a comic-book where characters in the comic book occasionally died (usually in insane, unrealistic, comic-book fashion.) I wrote numerous stories which were mildly, and in one case, pretty blatantly weird and scary (and actually got a very good grade when I turned that one in for a writing assignment…the teacher said it was very Steven King-esqe.) I even drew pictures of swords, guns, etc., as we were building our own role-playing game similar to Cyberpunk/Car Wars and while I did get in trouble for bringing in a “Devil Worshiping Book” (Dungeons & Dragons) my friend let me borrow, for the most part we had fun and survived high-school and went on to college without incident.

If I went through school now, I’d probably be suspended and in jail by now, or worse, since nerds don’t do well in jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ned Flanders: Let’s thank the Lord for another beautiful day.
Superintendent Chalmers: “Thank the Lord”? That sounded like a prayer. A prayer in a public school. God has no place within these walls, just like facts don’t have a place within an organized religion.


I actively agree with this by the way, america, my french canadian province of QC didn’t offer non confessional schools except to english speaking communities who are mainly english and live in Montreal. At 14 I could decide (grade 8/9) to get rid of catholic studies which we just called “relish” but the grade 9 book was actually interesting, learning about how 3 of the 5 biggest religions are related and all but by grade 10 I had myself switched to Morals which is where the few heathen french speaking protestants went and others who just got bored with really childish classes and copying of bible verses and well, I graduated in 2000, my in grade 12 all my teachers retired the following year except my french teacher. Anyway I said that because the religion class (and also morals) had to teach US “FPS” “Personal and Social Formation) and in that year there was drugs and sex and my teacher was telling us about our OTC codeine and how you could get rid of the the tylenol and get really high with them lol. She was kinda senile but entertaining enough, but she could have done that as a Morals teacher and that would have been it. The mandatory textbooks (Morals was just photocopied files every class) was more money in the trash.

Too bad the “small” age of consent is 14 for these kind of things.

Edward Pope (profile) says:

Simply going too far

Really they cannot get their staff in order, cannot teach our children the necessary things they need to know to obtain a job or to make a career. But, they can harass them about things like this. We have schools with Metal Detectors, weekly checks on lockers, lockdowns of school rooms, and now teachers with guns. I feel for our students today. They are in miserable conditions. We as parents know that our kids are going to experiment. That is part of the challenge of parenting.

I guess this is partly our fault, for forcing more and more on the school system. We expect them to teach our children, so we gave them both too little power and too much power to accomplish this.

Since the teen has admitted to having a drug, I understand the schold giving her the 10 days. But, since no testing was done, they should not go further.

And really, no after school programs or any assistance for home schooling? I bet they used the money for athletic programs instead. School is about learning and that should be the primary focus. Not mater what the learning is about. In this case, she learned that your personal things in a public school are not personal. Good lesson, bad way to teach.

Quiet Lurcker says:

Re: Simply going too far

Simply, no.

The absolute (like the speed of light is an absolute) limit was for an administrator to tell the kid not to use drugs again, and case closed.

By policy, most schools start out with minor disciplinary measures, and ratchet it up as the infractions stack up. And we have on indication that there were serious infractions on this student’s record, so right off, their response is way overboard.

Second, school policies usually require some kind of physical evidence before they can even administer disciplinary measures.

Third, drug possession is a criminal act, and even in this day and age, both by state law and going by previous court cases, the parents should have been notified and given opportunity to be present and/or have a lawyer there before ever the student was even questioned about the matter. How do I know? I went to school in Missouri.

No, I’m sorry. the school and district got it wrong six ways from zero.


PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Simply going too far

Exactly this. The administration was LOOKING for ways to be rid of this student and the rest of the student body is probably rejoicing that this person is finally gone.

While it sounds bad in an article, probably the only people that care are the father/daughter troublemakers. My mom was a school counselor her whole career. She dealt kindly to the ones that would respond and harshly to the ones that wouldn’t. The fact that there is only harshness beginning to end tells you about the prior dealings between this uncooperative family and the school.

Anonymous Coward says:

So let’s see: The school is guilty of theft for withholding property that doesn’t belong to them and I’m sure there’s a law in their state against keeping students out of school that the dad would be charged with if he just made her stay home for half a year. And the school probably doesn’t teach any critical thinking curricula or at least doesn’t seem like qualified to do so.

tom (profile) says:

Has anyone in the school made copies of the stories in question? If so, the father should raise copyright violation issues. As an AC previously noted, failure to return found property to the owner is considered a crime in many places. The father should also consider filing a ‘lost income’ suit on behalf of his daughter against the school administrators over depriving his daughter, an aspiring author, of her tools of the trade and works in progress.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

In this comment, I will write that all the idiots involved in this scandal have been fired.
All the idiots involved in this scandal are have been fired.
Now, logically, because writing about marijuana is the same as possessing it, one can conclude that according to the school district writing alters reality. This means that all of the staff who decided that writing about stuff teenagers fantasize about is suspension-worthy have been fired.

scotts13 (profile) says:

Make 'em legal adults

Since the school officials clearly have no idea how to administer to children, I believe they can only be brought back to reality by giving the students the full legal rights of adults when on school grounds. No unreasonable search and seizure, right to remain silent, right to legal representation, evidentiary rules…

We treat them like criminals but deny them the protections we offer criminals.

DOlz (profile) says:

That’ll learn ‘em

I fully support District Superintendent Robin Ritchie being suspended until January 2015. If that’s not enough time to learn not to be an ignorant, micromanaging, zero tolerance prick then it should be extend.

Wait what! He’s not being suspended, but a student is being denied going to school as punishment on trumpted up charges?! Obviously District Superintendent Robin Ritchie is a product of the Dallas County, MO school system. Their motto, “We may be ignorant, but we’re drug free. Well one out of two ain’t bad”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder what the suspension will ultimately teach her…

But let me share what I learned from all this:

– School administrators are fucking stupid
– The superintendent is CLEARLY a moron
– Stupid people CAN, in fact, get paying jobs in the school system
– We have stupid people in charge of educating our children
– We could potentially end up with a generation of stupid kids, should these “values” that the current administration is pushing catches on

Scary. Just scary.

Anonymous Coward says:

I really wonder about the due process implications of suspending a student for that long – 180 days – without being able to review the evidence. I also wonder how long the district thinks it has the right to keep that notebook. They aren’t the police, and the notebook was legal.

Of course, she totally ruined her case by confessing. That “detail” buried halfway down the article really changes it from “student suspended for writing about drug use” to “student suspended for admitting drug use”. Which seems rather normal, rather than outrageous.

[Grayhorse] said [his daughter] was not tested for drugs.

Well, why not?

I’ll second that, but with a twist. Why didn’t HE test her, if he’s so sure she’s innocent and thinks she should have been tested? Can he not afford it? Or is he afraid of the result?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I didn’t say it was ironclad proof. I said it was evidence. This isn’t a criminal case; they don’t need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m not sure what the standard is, but it may well be merely a preponderance of the evidence. And if you have “probable cause”, that means the crime “probably” occurred, right?

Although it’s pretty incredible to me that one person can decide a punishment of that magnitude, and that the accused doesn’t get to review the evidence, and that they can keep that evidence for this long. But then, too, we’re mostly hearing one side of the story, because the school district is limited as to what it can say without violating student privacy laws.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“I said it was evidence.”

Yes, but very weak evidence. Nothing I’d call “real” (which implies that it is strong evidence of guilt — that’s the implication that I take issue with.)

“This isn’t a criminal case; they don’t need proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

It’s not even a civil case, so no standard of evidence defined by law is applicable at all. The only thing that would apply would be institutional policy. This action may well be in accordance with policy — but that doesn’t make it right.

“And if you have “probable cause”, that means the crime “probably” occurred, right?”

I should have completed my thought: it’s, at best cause to conduct an investigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

when its gotten without a parent or legal guardian being there. That is considered coercion. There is a reason why police are required to have 1 of the above there when they talk to a minor.

So that they do not intimidate their perceived suspect into saying whatever the police want them to say regardless if it is true or not.

You may not have noticed but the police are not infalliable

Anonymous Coward says:

Wake up, this school is only pushing the same message as your elected officials: If something might be considered dangerous, it must be prohibited and fought, no matter what the cost. No tolerance, no margin of fault.

That the “remedy” is far worse than the possible harm is not a thing to be considered.

Compare these zero tolerance rules to things like TSA search rules or NSA snooping or the war on drugs/terrorism… not that much different, are they?

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

They Want to Move the Student to an Adult Program.

The local community college is Ozarks Technical Community College, in Springfield, Mo, about thirty miles from the high school in question, but in rural Missouri, that is not accounted any kind of distance. Here is their high school equivalency program.

and the college’s main page

The practical effect is that the girl will go to school in smaller classes with somewhat older people, and that she won’t get to be a cheerleader, or go to the school prom, or anything like that. So much energy in an American high school goes into organized partying, that anything which diverts a student away from that is usually educationally beneficial. Once she gets her GED, she’ll presumably go into the regular community college program, get an associate degree, and eventually transfer to a four-year college. That means, of course, that she won’t get a chance to join a sorority, and participate in organized drinking.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: They Want to Move the Student to an Adult Program.

Well, teaching teenagers is, by its nature, an exercise in lion-taming. In theory, the lions would simply eat the lion-tamer, but, by the clever exercise of feline psychology, that eventuality is- usually– averted. The assumption here is that the seventeen-year-old girl would be in the minority in the community college, and would have to conform to the ways of the people around her. Obviously, if one moved all the high-school students to the community college, they would become the majority. A girl who can write well enough to throw school officials into a moral panic with mere words is probably not without promise, when removed from teenage culture. You realize that a high school teacher has considerable experience of play-acting– it goes with the occupation– and to scare him out of his sang-froid implies a certain talent.

The majority of students in a community college class is likely to consist of twenty-somethings who have had the reality-testing experience of asking “do you want fries with that,” while coming to the realization that the restaurant chain has no intention of promoting them. Oh, and girls who have gotten pregnant early, and spent a couple of years changing diapers. Community colleges, unlike high schools and four-year colleges, do not feel the need to have football teams, fraternities and sororities, proms, mixers, cheerleaders, etc., etc. No doubt these things are necessary for the ordinary run of mediocrities who smoke joints instead of writing about smoking joints.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: They Want to Move the Student to an Adult Program.

“The majority of students in a community college class is likely to consist of…”

Wow, why such hatred for community colleges? This probably depends on exactly which college you’re talking about and so what you say may be true for some of them. But it’s certainly not true for all of them.

I personally know of two community colleges in my region that none of this holds true for. One of them is the only place in the general region where you can take nursing courses, for example. The students there are of no lower caliber than students of other types of colleges.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 They Want to Move the Student to an Adult Program.

Well, I’m not talking about intellect or skill, I’m talking about wealth and social class. Stated extremely, at the age of twenty-five or so, George W. Bush had not learned certain facts of life which are self-evident to any working stiff. Yale, Skull and Bones, the Texas Air National Guard, and Harvard Business School all had to take him because he was a Bush.

I don’t dislike community colleges– I’ve taken courses in two of them (). I do rather dislike fraternities, and have never been a member of a fraternity, or “rushed” one.Yet I face facts, and recognize how central a role the fraternities play in the college. Look at Caitlin Flanagan’s article in the March 2014 Atlantic. Most eighteen-year-olds do not have any intellectual interests to speak of. Their main desire is to get away from home, away from their parents’ moral vigilance. As Jane Smiley observed, “they had discovered that beer was the perfect food…” By and by large, it is the fraternities which pick and choose candidates in the freshman year, not the academic disciplines. As Stephen Trachtenberg, sometime president of George Washington University, observed, casting his eye more or less over the Ivy League and similar schools along the Eastern Seaboard, “The defining experience of college is drinking!”

The kind of people who go to community college are a somewhat different strata. No one is going to pay them to get drunk, since they are not privileged youth, so their quest for independence consists in getting some kind of job, whatever kind they can get, in the here and now. They aren’t very picky, and often wake up to find that their employer is exploiting them. That is when they go to community college, at age twenty-something.

() Remembered vignette: a freshman economics class in a community college, getting on forty years ago, the summer between high school and university. One of the girls had brought her tricolor collie to class, an old man of ten or so, who happily slept on the linoleum floor of the classroom, in a patch of sunlight.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: How to Get Rid of a Pain??

Maybe she was a pain, a passive resistance dragging all her classes down, a snarky strong negative influence, but too smart to hit any trip wires???

Then, finally, she gives them a weak excuse to get rid of her?

How else can you explain what happened without presuming staff stupidity?

They’re either stupid for mishandling this innocuous situation, or malicious, incompetent or lazy for “getting rid of” a problem kid rather than dealing with her appropriately. There is no reading of this where the administration comes off looking good.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

So our epidemic of zero-tolerance overreach is not about guns.

…It’s about seizing every opportunity to apply zero-tolerance overreach.

And it does teach an important lesson to our kids, namely, that punishment comes not from doing anything wrong, but from the authorities taking an interest in you and finding a reason to persecute you.

In this case, thinking about drugs. A bona fide thought crime.

I suspect that for most people in school administration this is about covering their own ass. When the administrators can be censured for not punishing a child, but are not reprimanded for not punishing the child, the policy is going to be generally to punish the child.

Uriel-238 on a mobile device (profile) says:

Re: Sometimes I'm a poopy-head.

Let me try to say that again…

When faculty is

~ repremanded for inadequately punishing a student assuming some kind of action is appropriate, yet

~ is not repremanded for excessively punishing a student disproportionatel, then

you’re going to have faculty erring on the side of excessive punishment.

Which sucks for the students and teaches them that justice is a sham.

Which is, I guess, reflective of the current world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Telling the truth can only hurt you

Two people failed here.
1- The teacher for violating the students right to privacy. (This suspension will be thrown out based on this fact unless thw school can come up with some safety issue that would have made it necessary to read her papers)

2- The father for not teaching his kid to NEVER allow themselves to be interogated without a parent or lawyer present.

Michael Vilain (user link) says:

where are all the enterprising attorney?

Maybe the district doesn’t have deep enough pockets to make this of interest to enterprising attorneys. But making it personal by going after the half-wit superintendent so that the insurance company that covers the district’s litigation insurance won’t cover this incident. Then sue each of the staff people that are part of this individually. If that cretin has to put a 2nd mortgage on their house to settle the law suit, maybe they’ll think twice about doing stupid things like this.

GEMont (profile) says:

Mental Illness comes in many forms...

The threat of possible cannabis legalization or decriminalization leads many officials, to hand out harsher and harsher penalties for ANY use of cannabis while the law still allows for punishment.

Its a control freak thing.

Legalization of Cannabis threatens the ability of people like District Superintendent Robin Ritchie, to utilize their positions of power to punish others. This is especially true among administrators of institutions dealing with children.

Actual Cure: Legalize and/or decriminalize Cannabis usage in any form, by anyone, today. Make it a criminal offense to manufacture and disseminate false information to the public about any substances, activity or process for the purpose of eliminating competition through criminalization.

Minor Fantasy Cure: Test all would be authorities for Egomania, Domination Inebriation and Assholitis and prevent such decrepit cretins from ever holding any form of public office, or any form of employment dealing with the care of children, the elderly or handicapped people.

PS – by decriminalize, I mean the removal of all legal language that pertains to Crime from all usage of Cannabis by anyone, making the use of Cannabis equal legally, to the use of carrots, cucumbers, wheat and other non-criminalized plant matter. IE Un-Criminalizing.

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