California may be considering the full legalization of marijuana, but in Texas, a student was recently suspended from school for having red eyes. In Trophy Club, Texas, 16-year-old Kyler Robertson chose to attend classes just two days after his father was stabbed to death. His mother had urged the grief-stricken boy to stay home, according to a report on the local Fox News station, but Kyler said he wanted the comfort of his friends.
Administrators at Byron Nelson High School didn't let the boy stay on campus for long. Because of his irritated eyes and, they claimed, the smell of marijuana on his clothes, school officials said they suspected Kyler of using marijuana and sent him home Tuesday with a three-day suspension. The school said it would lift the suspension within two hours if Kyler passed a drug test — which he did.
Kyler's mother says she had notified school officials and her son's teachers about her husband's murder.
Drug use at school can certainly cause problems — but zero-tolerance policies like Byron Nelson's aren't the solution. They tend to be ineffective — or even counterproductive. Research shows that students who feel closely connected to a school community are less likely to have drug problems, and zero-tolerance policies have been found to reduce school connectedness.
Worse, Byron Nelson's policy seems to controvert the notion of innocent until proven guilty — and the idea that people should be treated with common sense and decency. (One has to wonder, too, whether it's worth sullying a student's academic record because he might have smoked pot two days after his father was stabbed to death.)
If the school had been concerned for his safety, it seems to me that a trip to the hospital would have been their best bet. If his emotional health were the problem, being sent to a school counselor's office might be advised. Or maybe someone could have given the kid a hug and the chance to talk to a trusted teacher.
The next Trophy Club kid who loses a parent probably won't be seeking solace at school, but at least the local stoners won't reject him for showing normal signs of sadness.
September 14, 2010