As parents, we rely on schools to protect our kids from the dangers of drugs within their walls. All of the rules and regulations are in place to ensure our kids are in a safe and drug free environment. But for Hayley Russel and her family, the circumstances were different.
The 13 year old student of Rachel Carson Middle School in Fairfax County Virginia, was worried about her acne and bought medicine, erythromycin, a common antibiotic that a doctor prescribed for her skin, to prevent another outbreak. She kept it in her locker and did not think about it but was reprimanded when a school official confronted her. Hayley admitted that it was a mistake but it did not change the outcome. The incident caused a disciplinary process that kept her out of class for more than seven weeks and banned her from appearing on school grounds without official permission. The event turned Hayley's middle school experience into a horrific one. Rumors churned wildly, with false accusations and painful insults about what she did to get into so much trouble. "Preggo," a classmate wrote on her Facebook wall, "Druggie," texted another. The subsequent days were no better. Her parents met with an attorney who took the case to court but were told that Hayley would inevitably have to transfer. Their attorney agreed that this was the only solution.
Hayley is not alone in this undesired situation. Her case follows a pattern in at least 18 other cases in Fairfax: Students are suspended from school for a month, two months, or longer if an appeal is filed. They go to disciplinary hearings expecting unbiased reviews and instead find what they consider a confrontational and accusatorial process.
For Hayley, who is now 14, the experience was not welcoming and she is still shocked over what happened. For some parents in Virginia, it may be a relief to at least know the school takes the use of any kind of substance seriously and are not tolerant of the obstruction of their regulations, for others it may be taking drug abuse prevention a little too far.
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