Zero Tolerance policies often include everything under the sun: prescriptions, over-the-counters, and of course the illegal junk.
But when a Fairfax County, Virginia mom got word that her daughter would receive a two-week suspension for the birth control pill, she was shocked,
I realize my daughter broke a rule. The punishment does not fit the crime.
I’ll say. Whether or not you believe in teens and birth control, it was a decision the girl made with her mom. And because she responsibly remembered to take the hormone on her lunch break, the Zero Tolerance Policy mandated she be punished.
Now the teen is even facing expulsion. WTF?!
Yeah, I get it. Kids nowadays know how to snort prescription medications, which are way easier to get their grubby little hands on than some illegal drugs.
But this chica has obviously had enough honesty with her mother to get the Pill. She’s obviously responsible enough to remember to take the med. Actually, she’s an honor student and letter athlete. That delinquent!
Deb Hauser of Advocates for Youth, a D.C.-based organization that focuses on adolescent sexual health, said,
To put birth control in the same category as illegal drugs or handguns stigmatizes responsible behavior.
Yeah. The girl is not exactly going to be cutting up the estrogen and sharing it with friends. (If the kids want to be exposed to estrogen–or something that mimics it–they can simply sip on some high-energy pop out of cans or drink their sports drinks out of BPA-laden plastic bottles. Whee! What a high!)
As for me? I’m the stepmama of a 13-year-old. If she goes to the nurse for a tummy ache or sniffly nose, she’s bound to be given Tylenol. (Er?! I don’t have a medical degree, but really?!) That is, until I asked them to call me with each and every dosing. But now I wonder: Dude, could she get busted for the Boiron stress headache pills I sent with her to school? Are even homeopathics under scrutiny?
Incidentally, I live in Virginia. (A Midwestern Yankee in rural VA.) According to the WaPo:
In Virginia, school systems must comply with state code regarding prescription medications and illegal drugs on campus. Students face expulsion if they bring to school any “controlled substance” or addictive drug regulated by the federal government. “Imitation controlled substances,” which could include virtually any prescription pill, are subject to the same hefty repercussions. Local school boards can give a lighter punishment after a review
So yeah, I should be worried about our own teen and her “fake meds”, the homeopathics.
Look, I get the Zero Tolerance policy. But let’s not let the rules be blind to responsible med-taking.
Incidentally, the Fairfax school is allowing a hearing where these concerns can be voiced. The family is asking that the reexamine their rules so that students like her aren’t made to “needlessly suffer” in the future.
Maybe next time the teen will just head down to the nurse’s office and get some Tylenol to wash down with that Pill. It’ll at least alleviate the big headache of this mess. (Plus, I hear it’s great for a stuffy nose. Weird!)
Source: Washington Post
Image: SarahConsolacion on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
At my school yes your daughter could get in trouble for having homeopathics. You should be able to write a note and keep it in the nurse’s office for X weeks. Then you have to write a new note. (We have a real RN on campus)
I don’t like zero tolerance across the board policies because they mean we teachers and administrators can’t exercise common sense. On the other hand – allowing kids to walk around with non-emergancy medications is asking for a law suit. Some kids are going to switch pills. We had a 4th grader give away baby aspirin on a field trip. What if someone had been allergic, what if she ate the whole bottle herself. The media would be demanding the teacher’s head on a platter. Kids have used asthma inhalers to huff in school. Kids take prescription meds to get high.
I went through this at school with my old style epi kit. I had to turn it in each day at the nurse’s office. Pick it up after school and turn it into my Drill team instructor for during my practice. During events we attended, I kept the epi kit in my bag – with their knowledge. Now this was a syringe that could be emptied and then refilled and used for something else – different from current epi pens that can’t be reused. I always felt this was for my protection that I didn’t get beat up so someone could get the epi kit. My sister was both threatened and offered bribes for her migraine meds. So my parents would drop them off at the beginning of the year.
Crimson Wife says
I don’t think high school students ought to be taking contraceptives as I believe abstinence is the only responsible option for teens.
However, last time I checked it was legal for a minor to be prescribed them, so I think this situation is ludicrous. She didn’t have cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. Why are they treating her as a criminal?
Cate Nelson says
Thank you, Kimberly. I understand that in this litigious society, it’s gotta be all or nothing sometimes. I will keep it in mind with my stepdaughter and those crazy “drugs” I send her to school with. (Odd, though, because they can get any old junk food with god knows what in the cafeteria–including caffeine–but my plant-based homeopathics could get her in trouble!)
This girl is not only an honor student and letter athlete, she also handed over her disciplinary record to the Washington Post when interviewed. She’s pretty clean. Clearly, she and her mom made this decision together. She’s not hiding anything. No matter how you feel about teens and birth control, I think the administration should have looked at this particular case and let her off with a warning.
Next time, I’m sure she’ll leave her prescription in the nurse’s office!
BTW: It’s gotta be a bit embarrassing for her, though she and her mom weren’t identified by the WaPo. Of course all the kids at school know who she is! ~crazy.
Shaping Youth says
Cate, you bring up a REALLY strong point on the stigmatization factor of peers and embarrassment; (note I’m not touching the whole morality interplay ‘should she or shouldn’t she’ can of worms)
I attended the SxTechConference.org with over 400 health educators across the country and one of the main barriers to responsible treatment and/or accountability with teen actions (whether it was STD clinic issues or birth control) involved anonymity and NOT being outed among peers. sigh.
The fact that she handed over the story to the media signals that she’s aware of what she’s getting herself into, controversy wise…and as you say, there’s complicity in the ‘making a point’ issue btwn. mother/daughter; but the damage of teens ‘rethinking’ the ‘safety’ of their decision-making environs altogether is dicey.
No doubt the teen should be sensitive to the fact that school is not a ‘show-n-tell’ moment, nor is it a ‘hide-n-seek’ game; still, it’s a fuzzy ‘separation of school-n-state’ type of issue when it comes to health care privacy that leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m working on a story about why teens seek ‘online internet counseling’ w/anonymity vs. in person counsel/school clinics (in the rare instances they’re available) due to the peer to peer stigmas associated with same…so this story really resonates w/me.
What we don’t know is whether her lunch break moment was discreet, and therefore a heavy-handed intrusion of privacy on the schools’ part…or whether the the school is accusing her of disruptive/influencer type of peer to peer contact. (e.g. big diff if she’s parading the pill around like a trophy; they DO have liability issues, as the other commenter said above)
Keep me posted, I’d love to find out the particulars. Meanwhile, I highly recommend the ISIS site for teens to find worthwhile medical advice using social media as a conduit for responsible health advocacy.
I think they’ve posted the keynotes and data on their blog from the 2009 conference too. It was really worthwhile and informative. I’ve planned a series on it and been backlogged on Shaping Youth! Thanks for this, Cate! –AJ