It’s Toolbox Tuesday! Let’s go over the drug offense rules.

On Tuesdays, we like to highlight the Toolbox—a one-day training program designed to equip school administrators with the ten “tools” they can use to maintain a safe campus while serving each student appropriately.  Tool #5 involves “special circumstances.”  Congress has identified three types of offenses that are serious enough that principals are given the authority to order a removal of the student to an “interim alternative educational setting” (IAES) for up to 45 school days. The principal can order the removal, but the ARDC must choose the IAES.  Most of the time, a district’s DAEP will be able to provide appropriate services, and so, it can be designated as the IAES.

But let’s back up a step.  The principal cannot use Tool #5 until it is established that the student has committed one of the three offenses. The shorthand version of the three offenses is: drugs, weapons, and serious bodily injury. But let’s take a closer look at the one about drugs.

The law says that “school personnel” can order the removal of the student:

in cases where a child….(ii) knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs, or sells or solicits the sale of a controlled substance, while at school, on school premises, or at a school function….

Let’s focus for a moment on “KNOWINGLY possesses.”  So a student is brought to the assistant principal because a quantity of marijuana was found in the student’s backpack, or locker, or car.  Have you ever encountered the student who responded: “I had no idea! I don’t know how it could have gotten there!”

You may be inclined to blow that off.  Many administrators have told me, “Kids always say that.” Maybe they do. But the statute puts the burden on the school to determine that the student’s possession of drugs was “knowing.” We think the best way to do that is to provide the student the same due process procedures that are afforded to the general education student. Hear the student out. Consider the evidence.  Make a finding based on the evidence that you heard that the student’s possession was “knowing.”  Your conclusion, after hearing both sides of the story and considered the evidence, will carry a lot of weight.