Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Outstripping Students Again

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Outstripping Students Again

Article excerpt

IN THE late 1990s, Safford Middle School, which is in a rural area of eastern Arizona, adopted a policy prohibiting the "nonmedical use, possession, or sale of drugs on school property or at school events." The policy defines drugs as including not only controlled substances but also alcoholic beverages and prescription or over-the-counter drugs except with the permission of school authorities. A stimulus for adopting this policy was an incident in which a student brought a prescription drug to school and distributed it to classmates, one of whom became seriously ill and wound up being hospitalized.

On 22 August 2003, the school held a dance to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year. During the dance, several staff members noticed unusually rowdy behavior and the smell of alcohol coming from a small group of students, including Savana, an honor-roll eighth-grader, and her friend Marissa. Later in the evening, staff members found a bottle of alcohol and a package of cigarettes in the girls' restroom. No official action was taken at that time.

On 1 October 2003, another student at the school, whose name was Jordan, and his mother requested and participated in a meeting with the principal and vice principal. Jordan's mother explained that a few nights ago her son had become violent with her and was sick to his stomach, a result--according to Jordan--of his having taken some pills a classmate had given to him at school. Jordan reported that specific students had brought drugs and weapons to school. He identified Savana as having served alcohol to her classmates at a party she hosted at her home prior to the August dance.

On 8 October 2003, Jordan asked to meet with the vice principal and handed him a white pill that he said Marissa had given to him. He also claimed that a group of students were planning to take pills at lunch. The vice principal took the pill to the school nurse, who identified it as "ibuprofen 400 mg," a dosage available only by prescription.

Based on this information, the vice principal went to Marissa's classroom to escort her to his office. As she stood up, he noticed a black planner lying on the empty desk next to her. He asked her whether the planner was hers, and she said no. He handed it to the teacher and promised to attempt to find the owner. Soon thereafter, the teacher discovered that the planner contained knives, lighters, a cigarette, and a permanent marker. He promptly conveyed this information to the vice principal.

At the office, the vice principal, in the presence of Helen Romero, a female administrative assistant, asked Marissa to turn out her pockets and open her wallet. She complied, producing one blue pill, several white pills, and a razor blade. When asked about the blue pill, which the nurse subsequently identified as "Naprosyn 200 mg," an over-the-counter drug used to treat pain and inflammation, Marissa said: "I guess it slipped in when she gave me the IBU 400s." When the principal asked her, "Who is she?" Marissa identified Savana. Upon questioning about the planner, Marissa continued to deny ownership and similarly disclaimed knowledge of its contents.

The vice principal then directed Romero to escort Marissa to the nurse's office and conduct a search of her clothing and person for more pills. At the nurse's office, Romero closed the door, which locked automatically, and asked the nurse to observe. Next, she instructed Marissa to 1) remove her shoes and socks, 2) lift up her shirt and pull out her bra band, and 3) take off her pants and pull out the elastic of her underwear. Marissa complied, and no further contraband was found.

Meanwhile, the vice principal retrieved Savana from her classroom and escorted her to his office. After stressing the importance of telling the truth, he showed Savana the black planner, and she acknowledged that it was hers but claimed that she had loaned it to Marissa several days earlier to help her hide some things from her parents. …

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