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Students Suspended for Carrying Midol®, Advil®


November 1996


Erica Taylor, 13, was suspended for nine days from Baker Junior High in Dayton, Ohio in September for possessing Midol®, the non-prescription drug designed to relieve pain associated with menstrual periods. After she agreed to undergo drug counseling, the school reduced Taylor's suspension to a 3-day suspension (Cox News Service, "Girl suspended for Midol," Cincinnati Enquirer, October 1, 1996, p. A2; "School Suspends Girl For Having Midol," Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1996, p. A6; "Teen Barred for Legal Pills," Washington Post, October 3, 1996, p. A18).

Taylor had accepted a Midol® pill from Kimberly Smart, another eight-grader at the school. Smart served a 10-day suspension, and was then notified that she was being expelled until February 12, a period of four and a half months. Smart, who claims she was never given the chance to reduce her penalty, filed a federal lawsuit on October 7 claiming that the school punished her more severely because she is black. On the night Smart sued, the school board voted to cut her expulsion to only three days of additional suspension. The school district's drug policy does not distinguish between legal and illegal, or prescription and non-prescription drugs ("Girls Expulsion For Legal Drug Is Reduced," Washington Post, October 8, 1996, p. A4; James Hannah, "Student Who Supplied Midol Back in Class," Washington Post, October 9, 1996, p. A3).


On October 8, the Riverwood Middle School in Houston suspended honor student Brooke Olson for a day for bringing a bottle of Advil® to school in her backpack. A drug-sniffing dog going through the students' belongings found the non-prescription painkiller. Olson told reporters that she was aware of the Humble Independent School District policy that requires students to give all drugs, prescription or non-prescription, to the school nurse, but said she had forgotten she was carrying the bottle of Advi®l. "I think the punishment is way too severe. All my grades are going to be affected by this," Olson said ("Student Suspended for Carrying Advil," Washington Post, October 10, 1996, p. A13).

At a public forum on October 21, Brooke Olson's parents, David and Deborah Olson, asked the school board to expunge the suspension from their daughter's record and to put the district's drug policy on the board's November 12 agenda. "It's unreasonably severe to suspend a child for such a simple oversight," said Deborah Olson. In compliance with the district's drug policy, Brooke Olson's grade on her Spanish honors test was dropped 20%, lowering her overall grade in the class to a C. Her parents also asked the school board to restore that grade. The school board said that the suspension could not be avoided, but superintendent Michael Say said the suspension will be removed from the student's record after a year. School board trustees argued that the drug policy has vital to school safety. "Nothing is more important than keeping drugs off campus," said Trustee Al Moore (Cindy Horswell, "Girl's parents fight pain of suspension over Advil," Houston Chronicle, October 22, 1996).