Class is back in session for a Florida middle schooler who was kicked out of school for allegedly eating a pot brownie on the way to class. The student, who attends DeSoto Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, won her appeal against the school board on Wednesday. State appeals court judges Patricia Kelly and J. Andrew Atkinson ruled that the student, identified as D.G., did not violate the school’s “zero tolerance” drug policy.
Student Fights Back Against “Zero Tolerance” Policy
D.G. is a middle school student at DeSoto Middle School in Florida. Medical cannabis is legal in Florida, but the state has yet to decriminalize weed for adults. Mirroring the state’s prohibition against marijuana, many schools in Florida have strict “zero tolerance” rules against drugs on school grounds. Some policies even cover student activity outside of class. So if a student gets arrested for cannabis at home, they can face repercussions at school, too.
Apparently, the DeSoto County School Board thought their zero tolerance rules had a similar reach. So they expelled D.G. on the grounds that she consumed a cannabis-infused brownie on her way to school in the morning. The board argued that by eating the pot brownie, D.G. violated the zero tolerance rules. Under that policy, the minimum penalty is expulsion for the remainder of the school year. Hence, D.G. was sent home.
However, the policy defines a drug-related zero tolerance offense thus: “sale, distribution, possession, receipt, or delivery of illegal drugs.”
So D.G.’s mother, Shasta Mott, argued in her appeal against her daughter’s expulsion that D.G. didn’t do any of those things.
Appeals Court Finds Eating Pot Brownie on the Way to School Doesn’t Break the Rules
In the first place, more parents should know that it’s possible to appeal their children’s expulsion from school. School disciplinary actions, like criminal law enforcement actions, are highlyunequal across the color line. Suspension, expulsion and other disciplinary actions that take students out of the classroom are a key lever in the school-to-prison pipeline.
Appealing an expulsion requires a school board to produce evidence supporting their disciplinary action. And in the case of D.G., the DeSoto County School Board didn’t have any. They didn’t have proof D.G. ate a pot brownie on the way to school. They didn’t have any proof that D.G. was under the influence of cannabis at school. The board couldn’t produce any evidence to support its punitive decision.
But even if they did, it wouldn’t have mattered. Because consuming off-campus and being under the influence of cannabis aren’t listed as zero-tolerance offenses. Eating a weed brownie isn’t a sale, it isn’t distribution or receipt or delivery or possession—unless the G.I. tract counts?
D.G. had no prior drug violations, Ms. Mott argued in her appeal. And she didn’t violate the letter of the school board’s law. Yet the board decided to expel D.G. anyway, without evidence of any wrongdoing.
In the end, 2nd District Court of Appeals judges Patricia Kelly and J. Andrew Atkinson overturned D.G.’s expulsion. Now, she can go back to class.