Zero Tolerance, Zero Intelligence: Indiana School Suspends Girl Who Touched a Pill

School officials in Jeffersonville, Indiana have suspended a middle school student for touching a pill in an act that stretches the zero tolerance policies to a new extreme. Rachael Greer was suspended because she was given a pill by another student and refused it. However, the school decided that, by holding the pill, it was “possession.”

I have written columns criticizing these zero tolerance policies (here), but this one takes the cake.

Greer was given the pill in a locker room at River Valley Middle School. The pills were the prescription ADHD drug, Adderall. She gave it back but, when the other girls were caught, the school decided that she was in technical “possession” of the pills. One of my greatest gripes in these cases is the bizarre interpretations of school officials who cloak draconian and nonsensical actions in quasi-legal rationales.

Janis Joplin missed how one pill makes you suspended:

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

For the full story, click here.

40 thoughts on “Zero Tolerance, Zero Intelligence: Indiana School Suspends Girl Who Touched a Pill

  1. “Janis Joplin missed how one pill makes you suspended:

    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don’t do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she’s ten feet tall”

    You mean “Jefferson Airplane”

  2. White Rabbit from the Jefferson Airplanes. However “White Rabbit” was written by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society, that broke up in 66.

  3. BTW,

    This Zero Tolerance law has been criticized by even the Prosecutor’s as going over board. It takes the discretion out of the Judges hands.

  4. The actual crime here is the widespread medication of kids with amphetamines, often encouraged (or even required) by the schools themselves.

    This action by the school punishes a thoughtcrime. Greer should check her class schedule tomorrow to be sure that her 8:00 AM hasn’t been moved to Room 101.

    What’s next in this story? Greer’s arrest in class for possession of a Schedule II narcotic? There’s a lot of free publicity here for a media-starved police department.

    How does this school know what goes on in the girls locker room anyway? Have they been taking lessons from the Lower Merion School District?

  5. Puzzling,

    Maybe I missed it to, but I think she ratted them out based upon this “We wanted to know what would have happened if Rachael had told a teacher right away. Bell said the punishment would not have been any different. District officials say if they’re not strict about drug policies no one will take them seriously.”

    She wrote a statement.

  6. Good thing its not New York 1973 :-))

    Rockefeller Drug Laws Information Sheet
    Prepared by Aaron D. Wilson, Associate Director, PRDI

    Brief History

    In May of 1973, New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller pushed through the state legislature a set of stringent anti-drug laws. Among the most severe in the nation, the purpose of these laws was and is to deter citizens from using or selling drugs and to punish and isolate from society those who were not deterred. “It was thought that rehabilitative efforts had failed; that the epidemic of drug abuse could be quelled only by the threat of inflexible, and therefore certain, exceptionally severe punishment.”1

  7. The actual crime here is the widespread medication of kids with amphetamines, often encouraged (or even required) by the schools themselves.

    My two older children were prescribed the dreaded Paxil and Ritalin when they were 7-10 and it still pisses me off. I tried to fight my ex-wife on it but got the Dr. said answer. Freakin drug companies. I hate them. Like the one congressman said the other day, his father in law was taking upteen different meds. from six different doctors and after they went thru the list they were able to eliminate over half.

  8. Maryland Teacher Thread about taking your meds. One pill makes your nervous and one pill makes you small.

  9. As low level public servants, school officials are not the most courageous lot and, in most cases, they are simply implementing the will of the school board. “Why risk losing your job to possibly protect a kid’s rights,” is the plea I usually hear. It’s also the easiest path. School officials feel like they get it from all sides: parents, the administration, and elected school boards. Only one entity writes their checks however, and one or two disgruntled parents does not really make much of a difference. Only if the community gets involved, and the complaint level rises to a point where it can affect the political aspirations of those on the school board (in these sparsely attended elections) will something happen. Certain influential persons can also affect the decision but that is increasingly rare. It points up the need for courts and laws to protect persons from the general indifference of the State to the rights of its citizens, and even of the general indifference of the citizenry at large to the rights of its constituent members.

    Another observation is that these fiascoes always seem to occur in backwater places where conservatism is the order of the day. Conservatism squeezes out compassion and discretion as it piously sacrifices individuals on the altar of rules and order. Read that as fear, and read that further as an obsession with vices, which, of course, goes hand in hand with pernicious religiosity.

    Old problem-new manifestation.

  10. One final thought: the article indicates that the child had the pill “put … in [her] hand” by another student. She then promptly returned it, syaing she didn’t want it. To quote the SCOTUS “there is no word more ambiguous in its meaning than ‘possession,'” yet I still do not understand under what construction of the word “possession” (which requires conscious and intentional control over an item), can she be said to have violated the policy. Was the principal in violation for taking the drugs from the student since he too, presumably, held them in his hand? Does intention not matter?

  11. mespo,

    That is what I find most disturbing. What I was able to discern from the article is the following: She was in the girls locker room. That another student put it in her hand. She did not want it and gave it back to the student. That the student felt compelled to tell someone about it (or a camera was in the locker room another issue altogether) and she wrote a note. Then she was suspended like the rest of the students. What I can’t figure out is if she too was placed in alternative education as well.

    If those are the facts as laid out, the school system has some serious issues to figure out on this one.

  12. The more I read about the education systems in the US, the happier I am that my kids go to school in Canada. To punish this girl for doing the right thing right down the line is absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps the next time that she is offered recreational narcotics she try them out…why not, she’ll get the punishment anyway!

  13. “According to the section on pupil discipline in the school system’s 17-page “student rights and responsibilities handbook” for 2009-2010, students can be disciplined for possessing, handling, using, transmitting or being under the influence of any controlled substance, prescription drug, alcohol, inhalant or other contraband. Offenses can be punished by a range of discipline, from a verbal warning up to suspension and expulsion.”

    I guess “handling” covers the temporary possession.

    “School” -(modern definition) A place where thinking is prohibited.

  14. I always liked Grace’s Great Society recording better.

    The images are from Woodstock.

    The Idiocracy is forming as we write.

  15. Buy a large bottle of aspirin, then put one each in a small envelope.
    Wait for a teacher’s meeting, then hand them out to the teachers/school staff/principle and request they open the envelopes.

    And when they are in “possession” of the drug demand that they all be fired.

    After all HOW the pill got in their “possession” is of no consequence…at least that’s what THEY are saying here.

    Let’s see if they change their minds….

  16. Duh:

    “… students can be disciplined for possessing, handling, using, transmitting or being under the influence of any controlled substance, prescription drug, alcohol, inhalant or other contraband.”


    Given that language, the policy is overly broad and thus arbitrary and capricious. A student could be suspended under the handling verbiage for picking up a teachers aspirin after it fell from her purse. Even the National School Board Aasociation cautions that:

    The policy should use clear and concise
    definitions that do not unintentionally include
    behavior that the school board does not wish
    to cover. Vague and overly broad policies are
    more vulnerable to court challenge because
    they do not adequately inform students of
    prohibited conduct. Schools should also
    ensure that the designated consequences are
    consistent with substantive due process considerations.
    Basically, the rule and the punishment
    must be reasonable.

  17. Mespo,
    The school boards in these conservative areas especially, are out of control with this zero tolerance crap. I do not understand how refusing a drug gets you in trouble. I wonder if the administration has a zero tolerance on dui’s that any employee or school board member is involved with?

  18. I was wondering if the drug capsule dropped to the floor and then bounced up lodging in the laces of her sneakers would she likewise be deemed in possession of or handling the “contraband?”

  19. Mespo,
    What if the pill had lodged in the tread of her shoes and she didn’t even know it was there? With this school board, if she had smelled the pill she would be pulled into this zero tolerance crap.

  20. These ridiculous zero-tolerance policies would come to an end if the parents of the students had a meaningful voice in the process of formulating school policy. This is typical nanny state mentality.

  21. The school system has a law department, I’m sure. Why didn’t they formulate the zero-tolerant policy? I bet the ACLU is going to be all over this, no charge to the parents, and the school system will become the butt of many jokes! Excellent job!

  22. A note about a teacher that did it right in spite of the school system:

    “Cast members from the 1988 film Stand and Deliver are raising money to help cover medical costs for Jaime Escalante, the beloved high school math teacher in the film, who is battling cancer.”

    (story links to EJO blog for contributions)
    It’s shaping up to be a bad 12 months for working class hero’s:

    “Real ‘Norma Rae’ dies of cancer after insurer delayed treatment
    The North Carolina union organizer who was the inspiration for the movie “Norma Rae” died on Friday of brain cancer after a battle with her insurance company, which delayed her treatment. She was 68.”

    (In caase anyone missed this)

  23. To “Mespo” and “rafflaw” who are trying to blame this on conservatives: do you have any evidence for this? Or is this just your assumptions based on the political lenses you see everything through?

    You might be interested to know that “zero tolerance” in schools originally came about largely due to accusations of racial bias and differing treatmeant – something that I dare say, was pushed by liberals, not conservatives.

  24. I went to river valley last year and for 6 and 7 grade and the school is so messed up that in my sixth grade year I got suspended for using self defense and the other girl got nothing. I’ve had my head banged into locker in the locker rooms and been bullied all throughout middle school but nothing ever happened they aren’t allowed to have cameras in the locker rooms because people get undressed and it’s against the law to put cameras in locker rooms.

  25. @Beth I don’t see how they can suspend one person for fighting, it takes two people.
    And I am guessing that in a locker room there are plenty of other people that saw what happened.

    Plus your rights don’t stop there. If the school does nothing about it, then get your parents & file a police report.

    Once your parents & the cops start sticking their noses into it, the school will be forced to look into these assaults.

  26. what do you mean? how about i push you around don’t stop then start hitting you and kicking you and the only way for you to get off of me is to push you and we both get suspended how would you feel you can’t run you sound like an ignorant person i remember this girl came up to me and punched me in my face and started to putt on my hair couldn’t get her off of me so i pushed her she tripped me you think i’m going to sit there and take a hit no! dumbass it is called self defense why was i suspended because i defended myself i did nothing to provoke her i didn’t even talk to her to know her but my friend found out she fought me because she was bored

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