Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lazy, Stupid, Dishonest....

And enabled by "tort reformers". Via feministe, a story about a student who may be expelled for taking a birth control pill at school.
School officials say they can't take chances. They are concerned about liability and safety. Any pills, even nonprescription pills, could be shared with another student who has allergies. And it would be difficult to enforce rules if students were allowed to take some pills but not others.
School officials, of course, don't have to take chances. They can ban students from bringing prescription drugs to school, can require that students leave drugs with a school nurse, can require that students bring in their prescriptions, etc., and they can impose reasonable punishments for violation of school rules. But that's not what we're talking about here.
If she had been caught high on LSD, heroin or another illegal drug, she found, she would have been suspended for five days. Taking her prescribed birth-control pill on campus drew the same punishment as bringing a gun to school would have.
That outcome is not made necessary by a fear of "taking chances". It results from lazy administrators who don't want to defend their decisions when called upon to explain why one child got a five day suspension for bringing a single birth control pill to school for her own use, but another got expelled for passing out grandma's hydrocodone to her friends. By the same token, why is it dramatically worse for a student to take a birth control pill at school than to come to school intoxicated - or to take an illegal, intoxicating drug at school, but not be observed with the substance in hand?

The claim of fears of liability are to be expected. It's easy to trot out that excuse for thoughtless "zero tolerance" policies. But how would the school be liable? Clearly it is not at risk of being sued for this student's taking her own prescription medication. But what if she had been passing out birth control pills to her friends, unbeknownst to the school - how would that create any liability for the school? What if she were selling Valium to her friends, or marijuana or heroin, also unbeknownst to the school? How would the school be liable?

Kids sell drugs at school. Kids buy drugs at school. Kids take drugs at school. Where's the rash of lawsuits? Assuming you can find one, how would a "zero tolerance" policy have changed a thing?
"Most people would not know the difference between birth control or some Ritalin or Tylenol or codeine," said Clarence Jones, coordinator for the Fairfax school system's safe and drug-free youth program. "If they are just pulling something out of their pockets and sticking it in their mouths, we don't know what they are taking."
That doesn't mean you have to treat two incidents the same once you find out what they're taking. By way of example, would you also expel a student observed to be taking what turned out to be a tictac?


  1. Does Mr. Jones expel students for eating Altoids?

  2. I'm sure he does. They could be, you know.... OTC vitamin pills, or something like that.

  3. . . . or they could be "prescription" Altoids.


  4. What are you suggesting?

    And while we're on the subject, you never did explain why, before Con law, you were always licking what looked like a small postage stamp... but never seemed to have a letter to mail. Your old story of "This is the only way he makes sense" isn't as convincing as it used to be.

  5. a) That he's an idiot and the policy a joke.

    b) . . . only becaue it's been so long since you had to sit through one of his lectures. : )


  6. Well, at least I've finally figured out what you meant when you said his lectures couldn't stand up to an acid test.


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