11-Year-Old Suspended From School For Not-Pot Leaf

Our society has truly entered into a world of paranoia… or stupidity… or… I don’t even know.

Public Domain Image
Public Domain Image

The Roanoke Times‘ Dan Casey has dug deep into the story of an 11-year-old boy (who will be referred to as R.M.B.). The sixth-grade student attending Bedford Middle School in Virginia was accused, suspended, and charged with marijuana possession on September 22 for allegedly having a marijuana leaf in his book bag with a lighter.Sounds pretty cut and dry doesn’t it? He broke a rule and broke the law. What’s the big deal?

It wasn’t pot.

After three separate?field tests revealed the leaf was not marijuana, the prosecutor dropped the charges against the boy in juvenile court. However, the parents of the child, Bruce and Linda Bays, only found out much later that the leaf wasn’t marijuana according to the Roanoke Times. R.M.B. also remained suspended although he was supposed to return back today under “strict probation.”

The Roanoke Times also reported that his parents claim the incident has:

“…wreaked havoc on the formerly happy-go-lucky boy’s psyche. His parents say he’s withdrawn socially, and is now under the care of a pediatric psychiatrist for panic attacks and depression…”

Ms. Bays told Casey:

“…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.”

R.M.B.’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the school system and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office claiming that:

“…Assistant Principal Brian Wilson and school operations chief Frederick “Mac” Duis violated his due process rights under the U.S.?Constitution.”

The family claims?they still aren’t sure why their son was pulled aside and have been told three different stories.

  • R.M.B. showed the leaf off on the bus.
  • R.M.B. showed the leaf off in the school bathroom.
  • R.M.B. showed it off in class.

R.M.B. and his parents maintain that none of this occurred, and he’s not sure how the leaf?made its way into his book bag.

Casey dug further into this?convoluted case and contacted Jim Guynn, the Salem lawyer that is representing the school system and the sheriff’s office.

Guynn argues that the case has no merit because,

“…under the school?board’s?anti-drug policies it may not matter whether the leaf was marijuana or not.”

Chaste Tree. Image via MdAgDept via Flickr

This means the school system’s policy on drugs prohibits “lookalike” drugs and treats it the same as if it were real drugs. That means if you have leaves from a chaste tree, a Texas star, Japanese Maple, or a Spider Flower you could be suspended and charged.

God help?you if you have a budding interest in botany and take the wrong leaf to school in this school system.

If R.M.B. was bragging about having “marijuana,” he should have, of course, been punished to some degree. Detention, in-school suspension, three days out-of-school suspension, a very stern talk from a police officer sure. Those are all acceptable punishments.?Possession of marijuana is still a serious offense in some states (which is stupid). This is a case though which shines light on the problems with the “drug war” that’s being waged and the injustice?against those caught with marijuana and now, those that are caught with leaves that LOOK like marijuana (but really aren’t). If states are going to insist on maintaining these drug policies (along with school systems), then officers should be trained to at least know what they’re looking at.

Should he have been punished? Sure. Should he have been suspended for 364 days, charged in juvenile court, and suffer psychological trauma because of a leaf that was not marijuana to begin with? No.

To read more details about this entire convoluted mess, I urge you to check out the Roanoke Times article written by Dan Casey.


h/t: Alternet.