Sep 16, 2014
A Buffalo man said his daughter was suspended from high school for more than half a year, he says for writing in a journal — later found by school officials — about experimenting with marijuana and thinking about bringing it to school.
The superintendent of the Dallas County school district said that is "not the full story" but declined to provide any details, citing student privacy laws.
Tom Grayhorse said his daughter, Krystal, had never been in trouble before she was called into the office and suspended May 9. Originally, she was ousted for 10 days, but it was quickly extended through the end of the 2014 calendar year.
Unable to finish her junior year, her grades plummeted and she lost out on credits needed for graduation. Grayhorse hoped the district would reconsider, allowing her to return last month so she had a chance of graduating with her class in May.
"I was really frustrated," he said last week. "I thought when school started, they'd wake up."
Grayhorse, on behalf of his daughter, is appealing the length of the suspension. A closed-door hearing has been scheduled this evening with the Dallas County school board. It is unclear how quickly the board will make a decision.
"The best possible thing is that they realize the mistake they've made and let her go back to class," he said. "That's probably not going to happen."
Dallas County Superintendent Robin Ritchie said her hands are tied, legally, in terms of answering specifics about this situation. But she agreed to talk in generalities.
"Anything that's drug-related or alcohol-related, we are going to have zero tolerance," she said.
Grayhorse, called to the high school following the incident, was told his daughter mistakenly left a notebook at school, which was later discovered — and read — by school staff.
Apparently alarmed by the contents of the notebook, officials called Grayhorse's daughter to the office. He said she was "freaked out" and told the officials it was her notebook and that she'd written the offending passages.
"She does write fiction stories. She likes to write," he said. "It could have been part of a story."
Ritchie said the hypothetical discovery of a first-person story involving the use of a controlled substance, even at school, would "not necessarily" trigger a suspension. She added that school counselors have been trained to direct families to resources in the community if there's any hint of alcohol or drug use in a student.
"The end goal is to provide the student and the family with the resources if they need help," she said. She didn't specify if any help had been offered to the Grayhorse family.
"There are lots of sides," Ritchie said of the situation. "The school's side is we always take drug and alcohol offenses seriously and they are fully investigated."
Grayhorse said the notebook passages, which he was told about but never saw for himself, were cause for concern, but the punishment — not being allowed to return to school for seven months — was too drastic. He said the journal was confiscated by the school and has not been returned.
"She had no cannabis on her person," he said. "She gave it to no one."
He said the discipline paperwork sent home from the school stated his daughter was suspended for "possession of a controlled substance," which perplexes him. He said she was not tested for drugs.
"Her 'possession' constitutes writing something?" he asked. "That is the alleged possession?"
Grayhorse said he doesn't condone the use of marijuana by any school-age person.
"If she had any appreciable amount (on her), I'd be upset and she should be punished," he said.
The retired Buffalo man said his daughter didn't want to talk to the News-Leader but agreed to have her name and story used. He said the last few months have been difficult for his daughter.
He worries that this incident will derail her plans to graduate high school and go to college. He said she is on track to miss half of her senior year and would likely have to remain in high school, to earn more credits, a year after her class graduates.
"It was a personal notebook. It wasn't a school notebook she had to turn in," he said. "She didn't write anything about being in al-Qaida, she didn't write about giving (marijuana) to anybody else, so why did she receive such a harsh punishment?"