High School Teacher Has It In for High School Teen

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“We are having difficulty with our local high school, where my 15-year-old son is a freshman/sophomore this year. To understand this school year’s dilemma, I will give you a brief history.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Last year, my son was suspended a total of more than fifteen days for various reasons, and on one occasion an assistant principal filed a disorderly conduct charge for a fight with another student, which resulted in us having to go before a court-designated worker. After reviewing the charges, the court-designated worker strongly suggested that because of the repeated suspensions and then this final charge, we as parents should file a formal complaint with the Board Of Education on our son’s behalf. I chose not to do so, but informed the Senior Principal at the high school that the recommendation had been made. Upon finalizing the meeting between my son, myself, the Senior Principal and Superintendent of our district, it was decided that our son could return the next school year but on probation.

This school year, our son’s grades have not been very good, but he’s attended all classes, has refrained from any negative activity, behaved and has even made a huge effort to do his studies. I felt he was making an improvement and that the school would back off. A few weeks ago, our son attended a party and it was well known that several kids there were smoking marijuana. Upon finding this out, I brought my child home. Although he said he didn’t smoke anything himself, he admitted that several of his “friends” were smoking in his presence.

This past week, I received a phone call from one of the Assistant Principals at the high school saying there had been a report that my son, along with several other boys, had been seen “snorting” an orange powder-type substance in a classroom. They demanded I go get him, twenty minutes before the end of classes, for security purposes and “pending an investigation”. I asked if a person of authority had reported seeing this happening and it was stated to me that it was several students who had made the report. I immediately picked him up. I also asked him to blow his nose into a Kleenex upon my arrival at school. The discharge was clear. I watched for abnormal or strange behavior and there was absolutely nothing. His eyes were clear also.

He returned to school the next day as requested and at the end of that day the same Assistant Principal called and said that because of further investigation, interviewing several students, they were suspending our son for ten days pending a hearing at the Superintendent’s office in now 10 days. At that point I asked if they had searched my son or found anything of “interest” on him. The answer was no, they had not. I also was informed that our son had been tape-recorded during his “interview” about the incident, without informing me (as his parent) first. I also asked why the police were not called. No answer. At that point I picked my son up and drove him to the hospital and had a full drug screen taken.

His test came back as “present” on only one screen. Marijuana was present. All other screens were “absent”. His doctor has told me that most drugs, whether smoked or inhaled, can stay in a person’s system for up to 6-8 weeks.

My biggest question is what are our options with this information? How do I proceed? I did leave a voice mail to the accusing Assistant Principal about the drug screen results, explaining how his accusations were unfounded in my opinion and based on the results, he may want to re-think his investigation process in this matter. I fear, up until now, I might have seemed overly defensive, but in reality, I am not condoning my son’s marijuana exposure or use, but, he did not snort any illegal substance as he is being accused of!

Do I have an argument to re-establish my son’s name and ability to return to normal high school for his education? In hindsight, I know now that I should have filed that formal complaint from last school year. I did not because I was hoping that with a new year, and a new Assistant Principal in place, things would not continue as they had.

It seems to me that our son has been targeted by that high school’s administration. It appears our son has gained a “bad boy” reputation and therefore, will continue to be a target for every negative activity possible.

Please advise me on a course to follow. I am desperate to prove our son’s innocence as far a snorting goes in this instance. He is just as adamant to clear his name through the school. This high school is a small town establishment, with a growing population expanding past its capacity very rapidly. Thus, you can understand the gossip and close knit communities. Children were calling to inquire about our son before we even got back from the hospital the night of the drug screen. Each phone call repeated almost verbatim what had gone on that afternoon at the school.”

Why would you even want to put your son back in that situation? Even if you win, your son loses. Even if you were to push this all the way, through the school board, and even in to court, and even if you got an apology from the school board, or a court order against the school for defaming your son, the reality is that the bad boy reputation, and the rumours, and the finger pointing, will continue.

Rather than try to push for vindication – which is certainly not assured in any case – consider alternatives which will be more likely to ensure a more positive high school experience for your son, such as a transfer to another high school where your son can truly make a fresh start, or to a private school, or even to homeschooling.

If for some reason a transfer is not an option, consult with a lawyer familiar with the laws, school regulations, and, if at all possible, the school board members, in your town. Discuss with them writing a letter to the school board and the involved school officials, suggesting that while you are prepared to go all the way to court if necessary, that for the sake of your son, and the school, you’d like to avoid that, and suggest instead mediation with a neutral, trained mediator.

And above all, get your son into some sort of counseling. Not because he has issues and needs counseling (he may, he may not), but because this is a very hard thing with which he is dealing, no matter what the truth is, and a safe, neutral place to blow off steam and explore his own feelings about the situation is critical.

Recommended reading:

Bears' Guide to Earning High School Diplomas Nontraditionally: A Guide to More Than 500 Diploma Programs and Schools

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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