Most people don't have any problem telling the difference between
legal and illegal drugs. Why is it that public school administrators
can't figure out where to draw the line?
The recent incidents of schoolgirls being suspended for
Midol/Advil offenses are not just ten o'clock TV news trivia items.
They are the result of school drug policies and drug education courses
that do not distinguish between legal and illegal, or prescription and
In the Houston case, a junior high honor student, Brooke Olson,
was suspended after a drug-sniffing dog, going through her belongings
while she was in gym class, discovered Advil in her backpack. School
Principal Steve Busch defended the suspension on the argument that
Advil is "just the tip of a potentially lethal drug iceberg."
In the Dayton, Ohio case, a junior high school girl, Kimberly
Smartt, was thrown out of school for four and a half months for giving
a Midol tablet to a classmate, Erica Taylor (an honor student with a
perfect attendance record), who was suspended for ten days and
recommended for expulsion. The "student discipline referral" sent
home to parents stated that the suspension was for "possession of a
Midol and Advil are over-the-counter, nonprescription painkillers
sold to relieve headaches, cramps, and other symptoms related to
Erica's penalty was reduced to three days when she agreed to go to
a drug counseling and education session, but Kimberly was not given
that option. Erica's father withdrew the agreement for her to attend
the counseling sessions when he discovered that the first appointment
would cost $100 and subsequent ones $90 each.
Kimberly, age 14 and black, has sued in federal court on grounds
of race discrimination, since she was treated so much more severely
than Erica, age 13 and white. Subsequently, the school board voted to
reduce Kimberly's expulsion to time already served, which was 13 days.
I suggest that Kimberly amend her lawsuit to change the allegation
of race discrimination to sex discrimination. The male supervisors in
these cases unreasonably and heartlessly discriminated against 13-year-old girls who have a gender-specific need to take and share painkillers
for menstrual cramps.
These are not isolated examples. Last year in Maryland, at least
two students in unrelated cases were suspended for possession of
dietary-supplement tablets, and earlier a 13-year-old girl was ordered
to attend drug-abuse prevention sessions after she was found with an
over-the-counter allergy medication in her purse.
In checking these news stories on the Internet, I found that they
were filed under the heading "miscarriage of justice" in addition to
the obvious categories. Conventional wisdom has decided that the
schools' actions were lacking in common sense.
But the schools did not retreat in the face of near-unanimous
public disapproval. They are sanctimoniously defending their
decisions, just like the Lexington, NC school administrators who
charged a first-grade boy with "sexual harassment" for kissing a
classmate on the cheek, and the East Stroudsburg, PA school officials
who inflicted 59 sixth-grade girls with unauthorized genital
Drug education courses for the last 15 years have blurred the
lines between legal and illegal drugs. The typical drug curriculum
teaches that "everybody takes drugs," and that it's up to the child
to decide which kinds and amounts of drugs he will take. This is
called "decision making," the follow-on word for the discredited
technique called values clarification.
The drug course that was probably the most widely used curriculum
15 years ago, "Here's Looking at You Two," gave students a picture of
what it called a "drug family tree." The branches all growing out of
the same trunk included coffee, tobacco, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, alcohol,
sleeping pills, glue, aspirin, cough syrup, marijuana, heroin, LSD, and
cocaine. This gave the message that differences among drugs are minor.
In "Here's Looking," the social acceptability of drug use was
promoted by presenting such examples as the use of wine at Communion in
church and in spaghetti sauce, toasting the bride and groom at a
wedding, anesthetics during surgery, drinking tea in honor of the Queen
of England, and having hot chocolate at bedtime.
Fifth graders were told to do such assignments as rewriting the
fairy tale of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears so that she samples
pills instead of porridge, and writing "Dear Abby" letters voicing
complaints such as Mom keeps a whiskey bottle in her closet. Children
were never told that painkillers are okay and illegal drugs are just
plain wrong for moral, legal, and health reasons.
We now have a generation of public school administrators who were
taught this kind of drug education in school, as well as the falsehood
that there isn't any difference between 13-year-old girls and boys.