A high school student’s father is suing the school after they penalized her for purchasing a pill that treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder from a classmate.
The lawsuit was filed by Steve Coleman in U.S. District Court in Lexington against Woodford County High School. Named in the suit are Woodford County Board of Education, Superintendent Scott Hawkins, Woodford County High principal Rob Akers, and assistant principal Jennifer Forgy.
The female student, 17, is identified as “K.C.” in the lawsuit.
K.C. claims she purchased the pill but did not take it, reports Lexington Herald-Leader; she placed it in an eyeglass case.
The pill K.C. purchased was Vyvanse, for the treatment of ADHD.
A drug screen taken “came back completely negative” for the presence of any drugs, the lawsuit states.
K.C.’s punishment by the school was a five-day suspension, reduced by half if she completed a drug treatment program, and placement in the Woodford district’s Safe Harbor alternative school for 30 days, reports Louisville Business First.
She was also stripped off her role as senior class president, has been banned from the high school campus, is prohibited from participating in any school-related activities, and has been removed permanently from the cross-country team.
"We think it's pretty severe punishment for one isolated event in a career of outstanding academic success," said lawyer T. Bruce Simpson Jr., who represents K.C. and her father.
The lawsuit claims the school change was an “illegal expulsion.” Damages and attorney fees are being sought.
K.C.’s punishment is referred to in the lawsuit as being “arbitrary and not rationally related to the offense charged against” her.
The pill was purchased in a classroom full of students, and in front of a teacher, after K.C. told a classmate she was suffering from anxiety preparing for her upcoming college entrance exams. He sold her the pill for $5 as he thought it might help her relax.
The lawsuit says that K.C. did not know it was illegal to purchase the pill, and as such she made no effort to conceal her purchase.
"If there was a concern about it being inappropriate or illegal on her part, she wouldn't have obtained it in front of 25 or 30 other students and a teacher," Simpson said. "The fact that it was in an open classroom reflects, at least in my judgment and her mind at the time, that there wasn't anything illegal at the time."
Later in the day, K.C. was removed from class by assistant principal Forgy and not given an explanation as to why she was being detained.
K.C. was questioned by principal Rob Akers as to whether she “paid another student for something.” She did not immediately tell him about the pill so an enforcement officer was told to search her.
K.C. admitted to purchasing the pill and voluntarily gave it to Akers.
Akers told her a “witness” had “turned her in,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims K.C.’s case was not given a proper investigation.
"Without giving K.C. an opportunity for a hearing or to offer any mitigating reasons for her conduct, defendants levied the following punishment: a five-day suspension (reduced to 2 1/2 days if K.C. enrolled in and completed a drug treatment therapy); 30 school days of placement in alternative school; a complete ban (except for after-school communications with teachers) from campus and all school-related activities, including all extracurricular clubs and sporting events, and homecoming activities; permanent removal from position as senior class president; permanent removal from the cross-country team and temporary ban from the softball team."
The suit also claims the “discipline/suspension report”'s bottom area where an explanation of the terms of her suspension and punishment is now written was blank when K.C. was told to sign it by Akers.
According to the suit, there is “no basis in applicable code or policy” for a 30-day mandatory enrollment in the alternative school.
"Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of case law which appears to give school authorities wide latitude to exercise whatever kind of punishment they choose, regardless of the circumstances of the individual,” Simpson said.
K.C. is currently attending the alternative school and her father says it is detrimental to her education.
"She sits in her class in this alternative school and is basically forced to teach herself," Simpson said, "except when she can work out private arrangements with her advanced-placement teachers after regular school hours, which is subject to their availability, and not all of them have been available."
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