High school junkie

Stephen Colbert reports on the War On Birth Control in Fairfax County, Virginia, where 17-year-old Freesia Jackson, an honor student and varsity athlete, was caught taking her birth control pill at lunch. She faced expulsion, but got away with a two-week suspension for “possession of a controlled substance.” From the Washington Post:

If she had been caught high on LSD, heroin or another illegal drug, she found, she would have been suspended for five days. Taking her prescribed birth-control pill on campus drew the same punishment as bringing a gun to school would have.

As Colbert says: “There’s one more criminal off the streets. Now, if there were only some way to keep them from breeding.”

In response to some of the comments: The girl’s mother knew she was on the pill. The doctor had suggested taking the pill at the same time each day. She’d started taking it at lunch time during the summer and wanted to stick to that.

About Joanne


  1. These kinds of cases have been going on for some time. Parents need to organize to push back against the drug Nazis. Funny, the same admins never can seem to see the Ecstacy users (quite easy to spot), the potheads, or the meth addicts. It’s just the inhaler-sharers, the OTC pain meds pushers, and the asthmatic kid who hides his inhaler on his person, who get swept up in the dragnet that catches their attention.

    If I sound like I have an ax to grind, I do. My asthmatic daughter was told she had to leave her inhaler in the nurse’s office, then collect it each and every time she needed it. Of course, that left her traveling to the office, someone tracking down the nurse, and getting it out of lock-and-key. When I protested that the delay made a more serious episode likely, I was told that it was part of the anti-drug policy, and that opposing it must mean that I was pro-drug.

    I did protest to the board, but received an equally snide letter from them. Since then, I’ve found that most states have the medically-necessary exception rule; check your state.

  2. Linda F–that’s ridiculous. One reason our son left parochial school was because despite repeated directions to the principal, she refused to give our asthmatic son his inhaler during an attack “until he calms down.” Um–hel-LO? That’s based on an ancient perception of asthma as an emotional disorder instead of a physical condition?! They also left him sitting in a hallway–unsupervised–in the middle of a serious asthma attack, and wouldn’t let him have his inhaler.

    It was a very pleasant surprise when he went to the local public middle school, we brought up the subject, and we were told: “Oh yes. Sign this paper, get it renewed yearly, and he can carry his inhaler. Do you have an extra we can keep in the office for backup and does he need a nebulizer?”

    This particular district had an asthma death in one of the high schools–and the parent not only taught at that high school, but his classroom was in the row closest to the track where she died.

    At my school, we allow asthmatic kids access to their inhalers, to carry them. As an asthmatic myself, I carry the inhaler. One of our former students died at home as the result of an asthma attack, and we have had several students who had asthma seriously enough to require nebulizer treatments at school (with parental permission).

  3. School antidrug policies illustrate one of the reasons that educrats don’t get the respect they feel they deserve; such blanket policies are ridiculous and lack basic common sense. By the time kids arrive in middle school (and often earlier), many are competent to take appropriate OTC meds for headaches, cramps, colds and injuries, as well as many prescription meds. I had full-time elite athletes who often needed to take ibuprofin an hour before soccer practice, during the Osgood-Schlatter years or after early-morning swim practice. They and their teammates knew it had to be kept hidden and silent (stuff the bottle with cotton) and taken in secret; I never heard of one being caught. Ridiculous. Only the school anti-drug Nazis confuse BCP with illegal/abused drugs.

  4. School districts have been focusing on blanket policies to prevent anyone from having to make a judgement call, and thus being held responsible for the consequences of their actions. It’s time to stop letting these cowards hide behind policy. Ask them when was the last time “just following orders” held up as a defense.

    Anyone who attempts to take necessary medicine from your child should be treated the same way you would treat someone chasing after them with a knife – i.e. stopped using any means necessary.

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    If it were only the drug policies, it would be one thing. But the refusal to think about what makes sense is sometimes so pervasive. It seems as though there are so many adult school employees who have moved into a state of cynical abdication from anything policy related. There are so many different ways that the case in point could have been handled (as the comparison to the penalties for being on an illegal drug reveal). Were there no teachers willing to go to bat, to stand up and say, wait a minute, what are we trying to teach here?

    joycem offers an example of how a similar situation was handled, through policy, but also with good sense (suggesting that an extra nebulizer be made available) and good will. Clearly at that school the focus was on how to best ensure that a kid had access to needed medication when needed. Birth control pills may not be regarded as “needed” medication–but that just means that there is more flexibility in crafting a solution. If the kid is taking them at school because her parents don’t know, then perhaps something needs to be worked out with the school nurse. If she is taking them at lunch because she needs a little food in her stomach and lunch is her first meal of the day–again, something can be worked out. If she’s taking them at lunch to advertise that she’s on the pill, then perhaps a bit of counseling from an adult is in order. The two week suspension doesn’t do anything to provide a solution to any of these problems. In fact, it doesn’t appear to contemplate what the problem IS–other than a student violating a rule that an adult has made.

    I frequently suspect that a part of what goes into this kind of wrong-headed approach (besides the few who are just power-tripping) is a passive aggressive response to a feeling of powerlessness in the face of authority. It also plays out in the number of silly things that teachers say that they are “required” by NCLB, or IDEA or some other requirement to do. Frequently these things are gross misrepresentations of the law (example: you cannot punish a kid with disabilities, so they get away with all kinds of things that other kids do not). But they are operationalized in ways that hurt kids, make for unhealthy school environments, and pervert all of the things that they were intended to support/prevent. We end up expelling or strip searching kids for OTC pain relievers, asthma meds, and now birth control, but continue to miss the kids smoking weed in the school bathroom or parking lot.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    There’s a reason to miss the kids smoking weed in the parking lot–or worse.
    Their parents are likely buttheads.
    Parents of good kids caught in stupid regulations are usually not buttheads.
    Who would the educrats prefer to piss off?
    So a solution for having the school come down on your kid for, say, birth control pills is to become a butthead.
    Works for the real buttheads.
    If that’s the signal the school is sending, take them up on it. They’re an educational institution–so they claim and they can’t readily take it back–and it would be a shame not to learn a lesson.

  7. Why was she taking her birth control pill at school?

  8. “If the kid is taking them at school because her parents don’t know, then perhaps something needs to be worked out with the school nurse.”

    If the kid is taking them and her parents don’t know, there’s something to be worked out, certainly, but sure as the hell not with the school nurse.

  9. Margo/Mom says:


    My understanding of the law is that the age of sexual consent is somewhat below the age of majority. Likewise, the age at which birth control may be prescribed without parental knowledge and consent differs from the age of majority. The kid is within her legal rights to make a decision about her sexual activity, as well as her birth control method. She didn’t make the choice I would have made for her–but then, I’m an old fuddy-duddy just sharing my opinions on a blog. A school nurse may explore with her the advisability of making such decisions in the absence of her parent’s knowledge (and one would hope that s/he would). But she still has the right to make that decision.

    Mr. Aubrey–not entirely certain what it is that you are saying, but the logic sounds pretty convoluted. Not to mention the reliance on stereotypes to get you there.

  10. Under current privacy laws,a physician may not tell parents about a BCP prescription unless the girl gives permission.

    BTW, they are often prescribed for various non-birth-control situations, including various gynecologic disorders and acne.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Reminds me. We lost a darling girl from the family who had to take BC because of acne meds. Turns out one of the acne meds is so likely to cause birth defects that no doc will prescribe it without accompanying BC, even if the girl is not sexually active, as was the case in our family.
    However, there is a hereditary clotting factor (called “r”, I think) which, when combined with BC can be deadly. Was deadly.
    Need to check for the clotting factor before taking BC.

  12. I love the message this sends to all the kids, not just the one who was caught: your school is run by a bunch of clueless boneheads, do not pay the least attention to anything they say.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    The kid who was jailed because the admin couldn’t tell the time–in PA–was not the first, nor the last excellent lesson to distrust all authority.
    When you think about it, what more valuable lesson can a school teach?

  14. In California, we are required by law to let a student leave school to go get an abortion without parental knowledge or consent–but I’m not allowed to give a Tylenol to a student who has a headache.

  15. BadaBing says:

    The girl could have been on a schedule in which she takes the BC before school, and even her mother admits as much. Quit making like this poor little girl has been victimized by the big bad school district. There are two sides to most stories. Moreover, this all could have been avoided if said girl had given her pills to the nurse so she could go to her at the necessary times and take her damn pill. It also could have been avoided if we didn’t live in a sex-saturated society that has no moral absolutes and in which parents say stuff like, “Well, they’re gonna do it anyway, duh.”

    But wait a second! Maybe we should just ask ourselves why school districts are so boneheaded about kids’ taking even OTC headache meds in school. Can you say “lawsuits”? Can you say “creepy parasitic tort lawyers”? It’s the same hidden force that has driven up health-care costs exponentially over the last 25 years. School districts have deep pockets and make a tempting target for unscrupulous [redundancy noted] tort lawyers looking for their next big payoff.

  16. I understand (now that I looked it up) that taking prescription drugs at school is against the rules, but a warning for this child and her mother would have been sufficient. Now, this charge for possession of a controlled substance and subsequent suspension will be on her record while she is applying for college and jobs and will have to be explained. It is such a shame that she had to miss so much school and was basically forced to tell the whole world she was using birth control.

  17. > Moreover, this all could have been avoided if said girl had
    > given her pills to the nurse so she could go to her at the
    > necessary times and take her damn pill.

    Yes, because we’re all so much better off if we just give up complete control of our lives to the state. It’s none of the school’s damn business what parentally-authorized, legal, prescription medications a kid may be taking.

    I agree that lawsuits could be a factor. The solution should be to fight for needed reforms in the tort system, rather than to just automatically give in to whatever legal craziness people come up with.

  18. The issue is that pharming is more common than using illegal substances. No, I don’t know why anybody would pharm progesterone, but I wouldn’t want to sit in the meeting with the parent whose kid is “sharing” his concentra and is pissed off because he’s in trouble and she isn’t.

  19. Eric Jablow says:

    What do they do about insulin-dependent diabetics? If I had to take insulin at meals, I’d be greatly exercised were a school try to take my medicine, syringes, and test equipment from me.

  20. All of this could have been avoided had the student taken the pill in the morning, before school. I agree that the school rules are nuts, but it’s easy to navigate around them, so why can’t she just start taking the medication at home?

  21. Robert Wright says:

    The girl has no excuse for violating the school rule.

    The rule is a good one.

    If a school doesn’t have a rigid, zero-tolerance policy about drugs, then it becomes overrun with a drug problem.

    It’s either one or the other. There’s no in between.

  22. Eric: my diabetic students all have insulin pumps these days.

  23. Eric Jablow says:

    My cousin (my age) has one, but he still needs to inject manually at meals.

  24. Was this worth the administrators’ time?

    Twenty-five minutes for lunch doesn’t leave enough time to walk to the nurses’ office, receive the medication, take it, return to the cafeteria, and eat lunch. I assume that her school has nurses on staff–that may be an unwarranted assumption.

    The girl is an athlete. Early morning practices and a varied schedule of games lead to a disrupted schedule. Lunchtime may be the meal most likely to be at the same time each day. Of course, if she can’t carry it in her backpack, she must take it at home–so even when she could sleep in, she’d need to get up at 4:30, say, to take the pill at the same time each day.

    It would be better to allow students to carry legally prescribed medication on their persons–medicines for asthma, allergies, birth control pills, tylenol.

    By the logic of the schools, they shouldn’t serve coffee. The cafeteria shouldn’t serve anything made with eggs, wheat, milk, sesame, or soy, let alone peanuts. Someone could have an allergic reaction, and of course, strong coffee can really wake someone up.

    Not allowing students to carry inhalers, epi-pens, and benadryl makes it much more likely that a student will go into anaphylactic shock.

  25. Margo/Mom says:

    parent2–what you are describing is in fact the case in a number of schools. I haven’t encountered any that serve coffee in the cafeteria (when I was subbing, it was sometimes hard enough to find in the the teachers lounge), although I would wager that if Folgers offered an exclusive and put up a lighted football scoreboard that might change. And I will grant the difficulty in finding balance when charged with the care and safety of a large group of young people with varying degrees of sound judgment. In some of my years at camp it was my job, under supervision of a nurse, to ensure the security and dispensing of meds. This included the full range from aspirin to antipsychotics. Somehow the implementation of policy goes more smoothly when there is thought given to what it is to accomplish–ensuring health and safety in this case.

    But–there are also lots of other things that start to intervene. There are the beliefs such as Robert Wright offered–that anything other than zero tolerance for anything that goes by the name of drug leads to overwhelming “drug problems.” But there have also been kerfuffles over who is to administer any medication. I believe it was California where legislation teetered back and forth with regard to whether a school employee could be trained to administer insulin. Nurses said no. IDEA says that kids with diabetes are to be accommodated. What this has frequently meant is that, in the absence of a school nurse either the parent had to be on call and make regular visits to administer the insulin (even if the child regularly self-administers at home–and the parent is not a nurse), or the child can be put on “home instruction.” This doesn’t even touch on grey areas like OTC meds in a high school student’s purse.

    Even so, the appropriate response to policy breaches of this sort has to be along the lines of educating regarding the policy (and why it exists), and support for aligning with the policy–in order to protect the health and safety of the students.

  26. Just because it’s legal for her to be a whore doesn’t mean she should be a whore, nor does it mean the school should help her be a whore, nor does it mean that being a whore is a great thing.

  27. Cardinal Fang says:

    Funny how rightwingers are so quick to condemn sexually active teenagers unless the teenager happens to be the daughter of a right wing politician. Or did I miss the chorus of rightwingers calling Bristol Palin a “whore”? Are sexually active teenage boys “whores” too, rightwingprof, or do you only condemn girls?

    And we don’t even know Miss Jackson is sexually active– birth control pills are occasionally prescribed to girls with particularly painful periods.

  28. Robert Wright says:

    If my son has a splitting headache at school, would I like him to be able to take a Tylenol, either one he has in his backpack or one a friend would give him.

    No. I’d want him to just suffer through that pain until the school day was over.

    Why? Because without a zero tolerance policy against pills, then there is no policy at all.

    I’d rather have him go a school where drugs aren’t a serious problem.

    It’s a trade-off.

    There’s no real danger to anyone if a student has a couple of Tylenol in his backpack. Nor is there any danger if there is an unloaded gun.

  29. Soapbox Diva says:

    Birth control pill are often prescribed for medical reasons and one cannot assume that the girl is a whore or sexually active just because she is taking birth control pills. I had to take them to regulate my periods when I was younger and I was a virgin at the time I took them. How easy we are to condem people.

    The comment about her being involved in activities means that she would not have a consistent schedule before or after school. Her lunch period probably is the most consistent time of the day for her. She had a logical reason for the time frame.

    She should be allowed to take them at lunch.

  30. Robert Wright says:

    Yes she had a logical reason for the time frame.


    Logical reasons aren’t necessarily good ones.

    The school has a logical and a good reason for the no pills on campus rule. Allowing OTC drugs would make it much harder to stop the possession and distribution of illegal drugs.

  31. And Mr. Wright fully illustrates the ignorance behind the concept of “zero tolerance.” Clearly, Mr. Wright, you’ve never had to deal with a child with a serious medical condition, either as a parent or as a teacher. It’s lovely to be so righteous–especially when your stance has been disproven as valid–and adhere to ideology in the absence of all common sense.

    The presence of controlled OTC and prescription substances makes it much more logical and easier to regulate illegal drugs. The school my son went to that had that heavy-duty zero-tolerance program also had a very serious drug and alcohol problem–and the students were smuggling alcohol into school and dispensing it via breath spray. Under teacher supervision.

    Furthermore, Mr. Wright, as you yourself state, “logical reasons aren’t necessarily good ones.” The logic of medical dosing supersedes the so-called logic of zero tolerance. Taking meds at a predictable and regular time has solid medical evidence behind it–and some meds absolutely require it. The school rule is simply one of convenience, not one based on biochemistry.

  32. Elizabeth says:

    Frankly, I would not want girls taking BC pills openly in school. This is quite different from asthma medication or any meds needed to treat a medical condition. The girl’s parent is brain dead – she is making a statement saying that sexual activity for pre-adults is okay.

  33. Robert Wright says:

    Joycem, you state

    “Taking meds at a predictable and regular time has solid medical evidence behind it–and some meds absolutely require it.”

    Of course.

    But that doesn’t mean it has to be during school hours.

    If I have to stop every time I see a white pill passed in the hallway to see if Bayer is written on it, I’m going to look the other way.

    A zero tolerance policy won’t eliminate a drug problem at a school, but without, it makes enforcement near impossible.