School Board Upholds Girl's Suspension for Advil®


December 1996

On November 11, the Humble, Texas school board upheld the one-day suspension of 13-year-old Brooke Olson. Olson was suspended on October 8 when drug-sniffing dogs found Advil® that she had forgotten in her backpack in her locker at Riverwood Middle School in Kingwood, Texas (Cindy Horswell, "Humble board upholds girl's suspension over Advil," Houston Chronicle, November 14, 1996, p. 29A; "Students Suspended for Carrying Midol®, Advil®," NewsBriefs, November 1996). (Advil® is a trademark for ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain medication somewhat like aspirin or acetaminophen. -- EES)

The board refused to remove the suspension from the girl's record or to restore any grades reduced by 20% during the suspension. "It would be improper to change an existing policy for one person and make it retroactive," said Humble Board President Ann Willott. She said the district tries to err on the side of student safety. Humble board trustee Al Moore said that in the past students have used prescription bottles to hide many kinds of illegal drugs. "We can't know what every pill looks like," Moore said.

Due to district policy the suspension will be automatically eliminated from her record at the end of the school year, officials said. Her "C" in an honor's Spanish course is now an "A" due to her high grade on a final exam, according to her father. He said, "It's more the principle that's the issue now."

The girl's parents, Dr. David and Deborah Olson, complained that the punishment was a "traumatic over-response." Dr. Olson said, "It violates common sense to suspend a child on the first offense for [a] relatively benign infraction. ... We feel school personnel need more options and a wider discretion for punishment." According to Willott, the parents will be included on a committee to meet in January to look at possible revisions in the district's "zero-tolerance" drug policy, which stipulates, in part, that all medications must be taken to the school nurse for safekeeping and administration.