Carroll County school system officials stand behind a decision to suspend two 5-year-old girls for unauthorized possession of a prescription medicine. The suspensions were in line with the county schools' drug policy.
School board President John D. Meyers Jr. said yesterday he had not yet reviewed details of the case, but he generally favored a strong and consistent discipline in the schools.
The two Westminster Elementary School kindergartners, whose names were not released, were suspended last Thursday and Friday after reportedly exchanging prescription bottled medicine while riding a school bus.
Westminster Elementary Principal Larry Thompson confirmed the suspensions, but he was reluctant to say much more about the decision, except that it was "uncommon."
Although such discipline for kindergartners is rare, Dorothy D. Mangle, the director of county elementary schools, said she could remember a kindergartner being punished in the mid-1970s for distributing his foster parent's heart medicine on a school bus.
"In disciplining any child, you are trying to make a statement about what was responsible behavior," Mangle said, adding that she was concerned then as now about parents not securing prescription drugs from the reach of children.
The county drug policy is "in place for all students," regardless of age or personal background, she said.
Meyers said that if the board finds the kindergartners made an honest mistake out of ignorance, it could ask the staff to review the policy. But at this point, "I feel very good about the policy," he said.
The board's policy and its application to the girls also have the support of the head of the county teachers' union.
"I know that it has taken many people aback," said Maureen Dincher, president of the Carroll County Education Association. "The board is simply trying to make a point to all our students, however young, that drugs are bad."
Carroll County students are exposed to comprehensive curriculum on health issues, including drug abuse, that starts in kindergarten, Thompson said. However, he was unsure whether the girls who were suspended had gone through that teaching at this point in the school year.
Edwin Davis, the county schools director of pupil services/special programs, whose office took part in the decision lTC suspend the girls, said he, too, was unaware of whether the girls had received that part of the curriculum. But he said their parents would have been aware of the rules against drugs through a policy statement they would have received at the beginning of the school year on a school calendar.
One basic message of that curriculum, Davis said, is "don't consume things that aren't given properly." When asked how 5-year-olds would know what a drug was, or that it was prohibited, Davis said, "We do have expectations, even for 5-year-olds."
He refused, however, to discuss specifics of the case, except to say that the age of the children was taken into consideration in deciding the punishment.