Civil Liberties

Girl Writes About Pot in Her Diary, School Reads It and Suspends Her All Year


Henriette Browne
Wikimedia Commons

Administrators at a Dallas County, Missouri, school read a teenage girl's diary, discovered a reference to marijuana within its pages, and suspended the girl for the rest of 2014.

The punishment was imposed last May, but the girl's father just went public with the situation. According to The Springfield News-Leader:

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 said his daughter left her journal at school, where it was discovered by school administrators. In the diary, Krystal wrote about experimenting with marijuana and considered bringing it to school. But no marijuana was found in Krystal's possession, nor was she given a drug test. Grayhorse said the diary entry may have been a fictional story rather than a concrete plan of action—he can't say for sure, since the school never gave the diary back.

The official cause of suspension listed on the disciplinary papers was "possession of a controlled substance," which Grayhorse said is absurd given that she didn't possess any drugs:

"Her 'possession' constitutes writing something?" he asked. "That is the alleged possession?"

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. 

District officials maintain that Grayhorse has not revealed the full story, but they can't elaborate, due to privacy laws.

This would not be the first time a student was disciplined for actions that stemmed from a fictional story taken too seriously by tone-deaf school administrators. But even if Krystal's conduct was worse than Grayhorse admits, only under the absurdity of "zero tolerance" could a full-year suspension be justified.