Excuse goes up in smoke

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

It could have been a genuine cry for help from a boy with troubles on the home front: “I brought the pot to school to show my teacher, because I want Dad to stop smoking it.”

It also could have been a dog-ate-my-homework line — and not an ineffective one, it turns out — from a quick-thinking 11-year-old.

Whatever it was, the explanation a Driver Elementary School fifth grader gave responding police officers after allegedly getting caught with a stash at school Feb. 22 has certainly resulted in some finger-pointing.

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After the boy was recommended for expulsion — for the brave, touching act of trying to clean up his old man’s drug habit, because 11-year-olds never lie — the pundits let fly against Suffolk Public Schools.

Then it was revealed on Thursday — and the school district would have done itself a huge favor and minimized the speculation by disclosing this to start with — that before the police interview, the boy allegedly told school officials a different story: He had found the marijuana on the bus.

The school’s investigation also found that he showed the pot “to a couple of students,” asking them if they wanted any, before hiding it in the cafeteria, according to district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw, again communicating this information well after the initial report.

“(The boy) later told the teacher what had happened (and the pot was) retrieved and brought with the boy to the office,” where he gave officials his found-on-the-bus, as opposed to the dog-homework-dinner, version of events, Bradshaw stated.

It’s debatable whether administrators were pressured by the verdict jumped to by the court of public opinion before this pertinent information surfaced, but the boy has ultimately not been expelled. Instead, he was transferred to an alternative program at John Yeates Middle School.

Here’s a better question for the kangaroo court: Is the low-hanging fruit of an 11-year-old allegedly caught with marijuana at school an effective use of law enforcement resources? Are the best interests of a boy arguably too young and uncomprehending to have known better or to be held culpable — or of society itself — being served by involving the police in his punishment?

At the time of the incident, no school resource officer was available, Bradshaw said, so school officials called a police officer to come and interview the boy at the school and in the presence of his mother.

“(The) officer did not talk with school officials to coordinate the investigation,” Bradshaw added

Under district policy, the boy’s parents have five days from receiving a notification letter on the results of the expulsion hearing to launch an appeal.

The letter was due to be mailed Thursday after the parents were pre-notified by phone Wednesday, Bradshaw stated. There had been no appeal by early Thursday afternoon, she added.