By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
Jenna did not thrive at JJAEP. "She was smarter than any of the teachers," her father says. "She'd fill out a test and they'd say, 'Take it again, that's too quick. That's all we're doing today.' Gave it back to her; that was her only work for the day." She rode the bus her first day. She was supposed to be back at 6:30 p.m. "The bus got here at 8:30 because one kid wised off to the bus driver; the bus driver took them back to school," Mac says.
A diagnostician and psychologist examined Jenna and diagnosed her with depression, Mac says. "An inability to build and maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. Inappropriate behavior. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. Bipolar II disorder and severity of emotional disorder, severe," he recites, reading from the assessment.
The week before the ARD, Jenna's 14-year-old brother was killed in a farm accident. "So she's really bonkers now," her father says, tearing up. "He was riding in the front loader of my tractor and I hit a bump and he thumped his head. We put ice on it. He was fine. He went to sleep that night and never woke up."
Several psychiatrists who were brought into the ARD concluded that Jenna had been denied her rights by not having the ARD earlier. Those doctors recommended that she be reinstated under the federal laws protecting disabled students. "And that because of that she should be reinstated," Mac says.
Jenna is back in school in Klein now, escorted to and from her classes and to the bathroom. "They believe she is a suicide risk because of this whole thing," her father says.
"She's back in school only because they missed the ARD. Not because they admitted any mistakes or anything else," Mac says.
She's fallen behind in school. Her father says he doesn't care. She's out a lot now, seeing doctors. "I don't care if she misses a year of school," he says. "I want her to survive this. She's 15."
Toni, an eighth-grader at Strack Intermediate in Klein, had read in Seventeen magazine about college kids taking the amphetamine Adderall to help them study better, and since "I wasn't doing that great in my science class," she decided to give it a try. She had a friend at school with ADHD, so acquiring the drug wasn't difficult. She took one.
"It made me stay up all night, and for one day I felt thin," she says.
After a progress report with some bad grades, she was up for trying it again, and this time her friend Cara wanted in on it, too. Cara took her two capsules home and locked them in a box in her closet. Toni carried her pills around in her purse for two weeks before a classmate found them and turned her in to the office. Administrators found three Adderall tablets (30 milligrams), but the school nurse confirmed she was not under the influence of controlled substances.
According to Toni's parents, the following day, April 15, they were told things would be easier for their daughter if she cooperated. They urged her to do so; she met privately with Assistant Principal Robert Foster, who never mentioned to the parents that he'd taken a sworn statement from their daughter. This statement provided the basis for the expulsion. That was the same day that Cara got hauled down to the office. She asked to see her parents; school officials denied her request. She stayed in the office until she wrote a statement.
The girl who brought the drugs to school never confessed to anything. Cara's parents take some comfort in the fact that their daughter told the truth and that she didn't take the medication. However, in her handwritten statement, Cara did admit that she takes Adderall at home on test days because she thinks she has attention deficit disorder and her parents won't let her get tested for it.
Taken to the office on April 15, Toni went from there (in handcuffs) to the Klein police department and then the Harris County Sheriff's Office. On May 17 she was expelled, sent to JJAEP and continues there this fall. She spent some time in summer school, but once the district said it would not allow her to finish there and enroll in public high school starting in August, she dropped out.
Toni's mother, Marlene, later asked the girl who had informed on her daughter why she did it. The girl said she thought Toni had drugs and might need help. The school had drummed into her that students should let teachers know if they suspect anyone has drugs because then they can "get them help," Marlene says. The girl never thought Toni would be expelled, Marlene says.
Cara was suspended for three days, spent about a week in in-school suspension and spent the last two weeks of school in JJAEP, alongside a girl placed there for slashing another girl's face with a box cutter. Cara's mother says that JJAEP officials couldn't believe Cara was there. She was not prosecuted otherwise; there was no evidence.
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