Zero Tolerance Gone Wrong


The Roanoke Times reports an 11-year-old was suspended from school in Virginia after school officials in late September found what they believed was a marijuana leaf in his backpack, along with a lighter. (A suit filed in the case alleges the assistant principal found “crumpled leaves.”) The boy, identified only as RMB, was suspended for 364 days for alleged “possession of marijuana,” and he faced charges in juvenile court. Turns out, however, that three tests found the leaf wasn’t pot at all, and the juvenile charges were dropped, But things with the school weren’t so simple: Only today, six months after the case began, has RMB been able to return to class at a different school, and he remains on probation. That time away has taken a serious toll.

The son of teachers, used to be an easygoing, upbeat child. Now he gets panic attacks, suffers from depression, and fears authority figures. After a disciplinary hearing, his mother tells the Times, “he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job.” He’s being treated by a psychiatrist, and his parents have launched a federal lawsuit against Bedford County Schools and the county sheriff’s office. But the suit could face a hurdle when it comes to the school’d zero tolerance drug policy It also bans “imitation controlled substances,” defined as a “pill, capsule, tablet, or other item which is not a controlled substance.” In the meantime, it remains unclear how the leaf got in RMB’s bag.

Another student in Virginia  (6-year-old) was suspended for shaping his hand like a gun.