maple leaf

Earlier this school year, a sixth-grader in the gifted-and-talented program at Bedford Middle School in Bedford, Virginia was suspended for one year after an assistant principal found something that looked like a marijuana leaf in his backpack.

The student, the 11-year-old son of two school teachers, had to enroll in the district’s alternative education program and be homeschooled. He was evaluated by a psychiatrist for substance abuse problems, and charged with marijuana possession in juvenile court. In the months since September, he’s become withdrawn, depressed, and he suffers from panic attacks. He is worried his life is over, according to his mother, and that he will never get into college.

The only problem? The “leaf” found in the student’s backpack wasn’t what authorities thought it was — it tested negative for marijuana three separate times.

All of this is laid out in detail by Dan Casey in a column in the Roanoke Times today. While the juvenile court dropped its case against the student after the tests turned up negative, the school system, in a community located midway between Roanoke and Lynchburg, has been far less forgiving. That’s because stringent anti-drug policies in school districts in Virginia and elsewhere consider “imitation” drugs to be identical to real ones for disciplinary purposes.

Depriving a student of an education for a year does have a long-lasting, harmful effect.   It has better be done over something extremely important.  Most codes of behavior within the state speak of placebos–look-alike pills.  A leaf is not a pill.

Kids act silly about things that are forbidden.  So do adults.  I have continually joked that the Prince William County seal looks like it honors the marijuana plant even though I clearly know it does not.

So what if the kid said his maple leaf was “marijuana.”  Where is the harm?  I could even understand if the kid were hauled in and interrogated for an hour and his leaf sent off to some lab somewhere (maybe).  I could understand if his parents were called.  What I don’t understand is the kid being long-term suspended for a year  after the leaf tested negative three different times.

The article in the Roanoke Times is has not been found.  However, there is great coverage in some of the alternative newspapers. covered the entire story as did several other periodicals.

What is the difference in Ahmed and “Johnny Maple Leaf” some might ask.  The difference is the public safety as well as the degree of consequence.   A real marijuana leaf doesn’t have the potential to detonate.  Ahmed’s punishment lasted 3 days.  Johnny’s lasted a year.   Where is the outrage on behalf of Johnny Maple Leaf?

Disclosure:  I have a similar tree in my yard.


21 Thoughts to “Where is the outrage over ” Little Johnny Maple Leaf?””

  1. Emma

    I imagine Ahmed supporters don’t give a crap, especially if Johnny is a white Presbyterian. It would negate their cries of “racism!” “Islamaphobia”……..”cultural” bias.or they’ll just dismiss it altogether because they think drug prohibitions are stupid anyway.

    1. I expect you are correct. Meanwhile some poor kid loses a year of education over a maple leaf. Thank goodness his parents are at least able to educate him. That isn’t always the case down in coal country.

      I expect this kid was also being a smart ass. That’s just what they do at that age. However, the penalty seems a little tough. I guess I will be an outrage of one. LOL.

      Actually, I do understand. Those sort of things (clocks and maple leaves) disrupt the school day. They disrupt the main mission. I don’t care that Little Johnny got in trouble, chewed out etc. I care that he went long term suspension for a year over a leaf. Cannon–fly. a day or two would have sent the message.

  2. Steve Thomas

    This is just one of the many reasons why we have chosen to send our daughter to private school. It seems like every day we are treated to a new story where some “zero-tolerance policy” is used to psychologically terrorize some kid. I understand having a “zero-tolerance policy” for controled substances, or actual weapons, but when kids are being suspended for having a depiction of firearm on a shirt, chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun, things have gotten out of control. Now we have kids being suspended for wearing a US Flag on their shirt, or when playing “The Hobbit” at recess, “threaten to use magical powers to make a playmate disappear”.

    1. I honestly don’t mind the ban on wearing pics of firearms, alcohol or drugs on clothing. All are contraband. Parents get tired of having to bring up a change of clothes and kids get tired of turning their shirts inside out. Its just all part of the dress code. Kids know it the first day of school.

      I don’t care how anyone chews off their pop tart. Why would American flags be banned? How do you plan The Hobbit? Using magic as a threat? Too funny. Do people really get suspended for that? There has to be more to it than that.

      When I was growing up or maybe a young woman, I cant remember the exact time frame, people would get all miffed and vexed if you wore flags on the seat of your pants etc. I think you could even get in trouble for wearing a flag on your shirt. It was considered hippy-like.
      Does anyone remember the exact details?

    2. One more thing I left off in my rant….the rules aren’t consistent. If a middle school kid got caught with pot at school, that would probably be a 10 day suspension that could be shortened at the principal’s discretion. Once a kid hits high school though, they are looking at a year out for the very same offense. Zero tolerance?

      Those heavy ticket items should be clear, concise and consistent.

      Stay tuned for my upcoming rant over no textbooks.

  3. blue

    A lawsuit would help to fix this.

  4. Steve Thomas

    I don’t care how anyone chews off their pop tart. Why would American flags be banned? How do you plan The Hobbit? Using magic as a threat? Too funny. Do people really get suspended for that? There has to be more to it than that.

    1. These all sound like stupid situations. I am careful though to always wonder about the part that isn’t being said for privacy reasons.

  5. Lyssa

    Private schools are the way to go. But you have to be prepared to make monetary sacrifices.

    1. I only went to private school 2 years. I believe I under appreciated it at the time and for many years.

  6. Steve Thomas

    Yes, indeed, but I see it as an investment. Still, it’s a shame what’s happening in the public schools. My public school experience was pretty good, and would have been better had been a bit more serious about my studies.

  7. Scout

    I’m not sure why this is set forth in juxtaposition to the situation with the kid and the clock. Can we be outraged by both? Why is it either/or?

    I think it was Steve or Cargo (or both perhaps) in the other thread who made reference to this “Zero tolerance” theme that schools have gotten themselves into. At some level, there have to be rational adults making rational judgments and having the discretion to act on rational judgments.

  8. Lyssa

    Its both setting proirities for the family and an investment. I went private K-college. Also agree with Scout – rational judgements with parents included in the decision process. That’s been my experience as a student and as a parent in private schools.

  9. Ed Myers

    If anyone is keeping score, I’ve been outraged by the maple leaf suspension too. However the difference is that the student with the maple leaf allegedly was telling other kids it was pot while Ahmed never told people his clock was a bomb timer and refused to sign a confession that the school administrators pressured him to sign.

    1. Ed, you still don’t understand that no one knew what it was at first. When presented with a potential danger, there just isn’t time to debate and mull. You call the cops first.

      Time is vital.

      Which situation do you think would be more time vital? A pot leaf or a home made bomb?

  10. Emma

    Yeah, we got caught up in the whole “zero tolerance” thing with the pedophile high school teacher. Whatta guy, and what an idiot principal at the time. We should have sued.

    just learned today that pedophile teacher is back in jail after a parole violation. Glad he saved the school from my innocent white honor student.

  11. Ed Myers

    @moon, the shop teacher knew. The kid told them it was a clock but they didn’t believe him. A rational person looking at the briefcase would know it wasn’t a bomb because there was nothing to blow up! They didn’t evacuate the school so clearly they didn’t think it was a bomb either. So many facts just don’t support the invented lie that the school punished Ahmed for bringing a hoax bomb to school to be intentionally disruptive.

    1. Shop teachers aren’t law enforcement. Do you really want shop teachers empowered with the safety of kids?

      The shop teacher knew??? Oh Ed, you simply don’t understand. You would like schools to be little states of anarchy. Sadly, too many of them already are.

      You apparently have known different shop teachers than I have known. I am thinking of one in particular who wouldn’t know an ak-47 from a sling shot.

  12. Emma

    Ed, you have the most flawless 20/20 hindsight of anyone I know.

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