Chloe Smith

Last fall, eighth grade Mustang student Chloe Smith accidentally left prescription medication in her purse without checking it into the school office. Smith was taking the non-addictive medicine under the direction and supervision of a physician.

During a classroom sweep, drug dogs allegedly alerted school officials that Smith’s coat contained contraband. A search ensued, and the prescription medication was discovered in her purse.

As a result of her mistake, Smith and her parents were informed that two disciplinary options were available. She could choose to be suspended for the remainder of the school year, or she could opt to receive a ten-day suspension accompanied by 8 hours of drug counseling and monthly, random urinalysis. The family would be required to shoulder the expense of the counseling and drug testing.

This draconian discipline for a relatively minor infraction concerning prescription drugs was justified by Mustang school administrators as being mandated by a district-wide zero-tolerance policy. Smith’s mother believed that the punishment was excessive, and she contacted the ACLU of Oklahoma.

Staff Attorney Tina Izadi represented Smith in negotiations with the Mustang School District and at an administrative appeal hearing. Smith was returned to the classroom after five days of suspension pending the hearing.

At the hearing, Izadi convinced the appeal panel to reduce the discipline to the five days of suspension that Smith had already served. In addition, no drug counseling or random urinalysis would be required.

Due to concerns about Smith’s permanent academic record and the overzealousness of administrators in the matter, Izadi filed an appeal with the Mustang Board of Education. Izadi’s examination of the district’s policy indicated that it did not have a zero-tolerance mandate in place and that officials had discretion in their enforcement options.

The Mustang School District and the ACLU reached an agreement through negotiation before the appeal was scheduled to be heard by the Board of Education. As a result, Smith’s student record was expunged of the disciplinary record and any references to her medical condition. In addition, the school recognized that it did not have a zero tolerance policy. Furthermore, the district agreed to conduct in-service training for administrators to insure that the policy is not implemented as such. Finally, the district agreed to insure that private contractors operating on school premises would not operate outside constitutional parameters in their use of drug dogs.