Mr. Armadillo’s response to my tirade against “zero tolerance” policies in schools is that it’s not about drug control, it’s the school covering their own asses against a lawsuit from a parent who’s kid was given a medication without their permission, particularly if that kid had an adverse reaction to said medication. He also agrees that it’s rediculous, and the kid’s parents ought to sue the school system, as this felony charge could affect the kid for the rest of his life.
In a semi-related anecdote, my (two years younger) sister called me one day in tears because she was forced to undergo a drug search. As a high school senior she was afforded the privilege of driving her car to school and parking on campus, in the alloted senior parking lot. Everyone else could drive to school if they posessed a drivers’ license and a car, but had to park off-campus, meaning, across the street. This was an extremely small school–eighteen people in my own senior class–so all the seniors get to pick their own parking space at the beginning of the year and decorate them with paint. So since the other students cannot park on campus, the narcotics officers and drug sniffing dogs are not allowed to search their cars, however, the senior cars, on campus, were subjected to search by drug sniffing dogs and cops.
Now, let me remind you, this is a very, very small high school in a very rural area, surrounded by farmland. There is a little gang activity but only by bored, wanna-be kids, acting tough in the abscence of real diversions. There are recreational drugs being used, but no more than anywhere else and it’s certainly not an epidemic or anything. There aren’t even any kids on ritalin.
Anyway, back to my story. Average, normal school day, and my sister is in English class. Suddenly there’s a bunch of whispering and noses pressed up against the window, as there’s a bunch of cops on campus with a big, drug-sniffing GSD. They go around and check out the lockers, don’t find anything, and proceed to the senior parking lot. At this point, the kids in her class were all crowded up against the window, watching the proceedings.
They get to my sister’s car, and the dog alerts, sitting next to the passenger side door and barking. The principal pulls her out of class and takes her out to the car. She is now surrounded by several cops, the dog, her principal, and being watched by all of her classmates.
The principal asks “so, Jenny, is there anything in your car we might be concerned about?” Now, my sister is the most law-abiding, cutie-pie cheerleader sort you can imagine. She said “… No, there is not.” They ask her to open her car for search and she says she’d rather not. The principal and cops then lay it on her, pressuring her and accusing her of being a drug user and dealer and saying that she needs to open her car for a thorough search, right now.
Now, instead of going the proper route and saying “fuck you, call my parents,” she, being basically law-abiding, unaware of her rights, and inimidated beyond belief, unlocks her car and allows the dog to search. Dog sniffs the car and alerts on the glove box. They open it, and out falls, amongst other things, several maxi-pads (she’s absolutely mortified) and a bottle of ibuprofen, in an unmarked pill bottle. Dog alerts on the ibuprofen. The cops immediately go “AH-HA, we have you now, lawbreaker.” They open the pill bottle and shake out a bunch of IBU 400 pills. Note: my dad is a veterinarian and we kept a large jar of 400 mg ibuprofen in the bathroom cabinet, for headaches and menstrual cramps. They get up in her face and demand to know what the pills are. She says “dog ibuprofen.” They don’t believe her. The principal forces her to open the trunk for search, where the dog doesn’t find a damn thing.
They call my parents and proceed to tell them that a drug dog found a suspicious substance in my sister’s possession. My dad asks what it was. They say white pills with IBU 400 printed on them. My dad says “it’s ibuprofen, you moron” and proceeds to chew out the principal for the above situation. They threaten to suspend her. My dad threatens to pull her out of school and file a lawsuit. They apologize.
I dunno about you all, but when we get around to having kids, and they get to be school age, I’m going to make damn sure they know what their rights are in terms of search laws, and that they need to call me fucking immediately if anything like this were to happen to them. No way in hell I’m letting my kid get bullied and humiliated by authority figures, simply because they’re kids and should be expected to be pushed around and insulted and taken advantage of.