At Bedford Middle School, an 11-year-old boy was suspended for being caught in possession of a leaf that was visually the same as a marijuana leaf. However, when tested multiple times, it tested negative for marijuana. The boy was suspended for 364 days after they found that he was in possession of the leaf. Melvin Williams told the Roanoke Times, “Essentially they kicked him out of school for something they couldn’t prove he did”. The school approached the parents of the boy, more specifically, Vice Principal Wilson. The two stories of what had happened were shared, from what Wilson said and from what the parents heard had happened. Wilson shared with the boy’s mother that the boy had been showing off the leaf on the bus on the way to school. The boy allegedly told the mother that he had been seen in the bathroom with the leaf and lighter. The principal then said that the boy was seen in a classroom with those items, but also had been bragging out about his family growing marijuana in their backyard and his dad knowing this didn’t care. The boy supposedly had no idea where the leaf that they found on him came from, and his mother has yet to see the leaf. He has been out of school for six months, without having had the evidence (the leaf) shown to his mother.
Scott Kaufman, “11 year old suspended for a year possessing a ‘leaf’ that repeatedly tested negative for pot”, Raw Story,
Student Researcher: Brenda Mayorga, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
Bedford Middle School has suspended an 11-year-old boy for holding possession of a leaf that resembled a marijuana leaf. However, this same leaf was tested, and tested negative for being marijuana on three separate occasions. The boy has been suspended for six months or more by now. His mother has never seen the evidence of the leaf; the stories from the principal and what the mother was told don’t match up. Is it ethical to take an 11-year-old boy out of getting an education at his middle school for possessing a leaf that was falsely thought to be marijuana?
While Bedford Middle School holds a “zero tolerance” policy, which applies to an actual drug, or a lookalike drug, the leaf that was found with the boy tested negative. How can the school allow for the boy to be withheld from the school for a false accusation? It defies ethics; it’s not morally right to deprive a child of his chance to get an education. The authorities charged the boy with marijuana possession; they were looking at the consequences of their decisions as good, as outweighing the bad ones. They believed that their actions would promote overall happiness. But is this even true? Does it maximize the welfare of the child to deprive him of an education?
The parents of the boy were not given all the information about this case. The stories on what had initially happened were not clear. The evidence was never shown to the parents, and yet the boy was still accused and charged with marijuana possession. It has violated his rights; he was not given a chance to present his side of the story. The boy was not given any sympathy, and was stripped of his due process rights according to his mother.
This case raises ethical issues against Bedford Middle School, and the police. While the school has the zero tolerance policy, it doesn’t make it ethical for the school to give the boy such hard consequences. The parents’ attorney, Melvin Williams, even stated “Essentially they kicked him out of school for something they couldn’t prove he did”. Should schools and the police be able to charge an 11-year-old boy for a crime he didn’t commit? Is it ethical to press charges without giving the boy a chance to present his side of the story? What implications does this have for our justice system if the state does not need evidence in order to prosecute individuals for crimes?
Unfortunately, this story was not covered by mainstream media, but it does raise questions about how students are having their rights violated at schools. It raises questions as to whether law enforcement is implementing fair consequences on cases that are still in need of a full investigation. The punishment is excessive for a drug offense that didn’t even turn out to be legitimate. It’s not ethical to charge a student for having a leaf that merely looks like marijuana. It’s like arresting a human being for merely looking like a robbery suspect, and refusing to drop the charges. It’s unjust and unreasonable. There is no valid reason for the boys charge; the fact that they had to test the leaf three times is questionable. The officer who charged the boy did this knowing that the possession was false, which raises questions about the officer’s qualifications to work in the field. There are more important problems that are occurring everyday (e.g. children in possession of fire arms instead of leafs), and to suspend an 11-year-old boy for carrying around a leaf that merely looks like marijuana is not one of these problems.
The main issue to look at in this situation is that there are many other consequences that the boy could have been given. The extreme measure of suspending the boy for 364 days was not necessary. Even if the drug possession was valid, expelling a child from the school environment makes the situation worse. The cop was using his authoritarian power to penalize the young boy. The accusation was mishandled and prompted by hearsay about the boy “bragging” about possessing this leaf. I believe that there was deception at hand, and that the parents took the right action by filing a lawsuit against Bedford Middle School; Principal Wilson, among others. Now it will be up to the court to decide if this 11-year-old child was deprived of his legal rights by being expelled from school for carrying a leaf that apparently only looks like marijuana.