They said the psychiatrist told them he didn’t believe their son had a substance abuse problem. But by then, the boy had other problems. After the disciplinary hearing, “he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job,” Linda Bays said. Roanoke Times, 2015-03-15
On March 14th, the Roanoke Times posted a story–a true story– about a school district which suspended an 11-year-old boy for possession of marijuana.
The “marijuana” was not marijuana, but here’s what happened– and it’s a profound story that authorities far and wide should study carefully, because it’s the story of the most wicked and stupid actions of authorities everywhere.
A snitch told the principal at Bedford Middle School that a boy– known as R. M. B.– had some marijuana in his possession that he was showing around, on the bus, or maybe it was in the bathroom, or, wait a minute, I think it was in the classroom.
The boy was apprehended and searched and a leaf of something was found. The expert pedagogue consulted google and concluded that it was a marijuana leaf and summoned the police and suspended the boy from the school for 364 days.
First detail of note: it was a leaf, not a bud. It does not appear to have occurred to the authorities that this detail mattered in the least.
Second detail of note: the boy was 11 and both of his parents were, or had been, teachers in the public schools in this area. No matter: zero tolerance. Authority must be respected.
The leaf was sent away to be tested. Take note: the authorities did not wait to see if it really was marijuana– they acted before any real evidence existed. They acted based on disinformation. Do I need to say something like “lord help us if authorities can punish us for something someone said that might or might not be true before doing the due diligence to determine if it is or is not true”?
Months went by. The suspension had a profound effect on the boy’s self-esteem, feeling of community, trust in authority figures, and happiness. The leaf was tested: it was not marijuana. But authorities must be respected and respected authorities do not make mistakes that have unpleasant, destructive consequences on innocent people. Test again! Still not marijuana. Test again!!
I’ll bet that the authorities were “disappointed”.
Think about that.
Do you think they were elated to discover that the young lad was not a hardened criminal drug addict? I have no doubt that they were disappointed. At this stage, the story is about authority that refuses to admit that it makes consequential mistakes. No: that refuses to admit that it is stupid.
That is what they know, and we know, they must admit to, if they are to honor the truth: we were stupid. We were not worthy of your trust and respect. We are more concerned with our personal status and comfort and authority than we are with the welfare of a young, innocent if slightly mischievous 11-year-old boy. Screw the boy: authority must be respected.
The parents rightly– well, too late, for my taste, but eventually– launched a lawsuit. Here we see how far the authorities will go: they announced that it wouldn’t have mattered if it was real marijuana or not because the school system’s policy states that possession of anything that is an “imitation” of a prohibited substance can have the same consequences as possession of the real thing.
Are there any criminal laws that state that a person can be convicted for doing something that looks illegal to an idiot regardless of whether or not they actually did something illegal? Maybe there is– but it still seems stupid. It is stupid. I refuse to sound moderate and temperate and diplomatic about this: the school board, and their lawyer Jim Guynn, are stupid: they didn’t care if he really had marijuana; they wanted to punish him for having something that morons in the administration of a school might mistake for marijuana.
What they are obviously, manifestly angry about is having been made fools of. And only a genuine fool would be this spiteful about that.
The truly moronic thing about it, though, is that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to have a one-year suspension for possession of real marijuana. This is a policy that only a psychotic person could believe in. But we are, unfortunately, a psychotic society. We approve. We elected the fools that appointed the fools who implemented this idiotic policy.
What happened is that the authorities become vested in their own actions and judgments. They have to continue the charade because the moment they drop it, it they confess that they are inadequate human beings without common sense or decency.
The drug war is the most obvious misguided policy of the United States government, but listen and learn: there are a host of other candidates. Homeland Security, the War in Iraq, the War in Viet Nam, oil subsidies, sports stadium subsidies, non-negotiable pharmaceutical rates, and countless others that are clung to because the authorities have become invested in them and can’t bear to admit they were stupid to implement them.
What could President Johnson do in 1968? Admit that he made a mistake that cost thousands of American lives or continue the war until something could be tarted up to look like victory “with honor” and then walk away and hope it all doesn’t collapse until the helicopters have been dumped into the ocean?
What could Bush do once he — perhaps– realized what an egregious error the war on Iraq was?
What can Obama do now that he has doubled down in Afghanistan?