For one sophomore at Klein Collins High School, showing up a little late to school one Friday spiraled into a 30-day suspension after school officials accused her of being high—based on nothing more than a school nurse's opinion.
On October 23, school administrators called Hailey Gibbons's mother, Jennifer Saxton, saying they believed her daughter was high on Xanax. Furious with her daughter, Gibbons rushed to the school and forced her daughter to submit to an 11-panel drug test—which came back completely negative. Yet when she contacted the school to give them the test results and say the whole thing had been a misunderstanding, Klein officials wouldn't budge, and wouldn't reverse the suspension. In fact, they said she must have been on acid—the only drug not covered in the test.
Saxton says the school's associate principal, Steven Matheson, even told her: “I don't have to prove to you what drugs she's on. I don't care if the LSD test comes back negative. We don't consider drug test results.” Saxton asked what she could do to prove her daughter wasn't on drugs. Matheson, she says, replied, "Nothing."
Administrators at Klein relied on one field sobriety test issued by school nurse Christine Bridges to make these accusations, Fox News first reported. That morning, when Gibbons went to the main office to turn in her tardy slip, a secretary reminded her that she needed to put a band-aid on her nose piercing as part of school policy, Saxton said. Then, Saxton said that, while the two cracked a joke about the nose band-aid, assistant principal Rachel Lambert observed Gibbons rocking back and forth—a tick Saxton says her daughter has had her whole life—and ordered Gibbons into her office. She asked her, “Are you feeling okay?”
Despite Gibbons assuring her that yes, she was fine, Lambert called in the nurse to make that determination for her. Bridges asked her to count to 20 and asked her to balance on one leg while holding her arms out for 35 seconds. Bridges determined that she failed (in a witness statement Saxton later obtained, Bridges says the girl miscounted, among other things), leading Lambert and other administrators to search her belongings. They found a sticker in her purse that said “legalize marijuana” that a vendor at ZiegenBock Music Fest had handed out to her the previous weekend. To school officials, it was just further evidence she was on drugs, Saxton said—along with the nose piercing, which, according to Saxton, school officials said was an “indication of her character.”
The phone call to Saxton from administrators, telling her that her daughter was high at school, came about two hours later. “As a parent, Saxton said, "I can't even put it into words—it's the worst phone call you can get. I said, 'Hailey, I swear to God, I'm taking you to get you drug tested.'”
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When the test came back negative, she thought it would sway officials and that her daughter, who had never been in trouble at school before, would be able to get back to class. But according to a media contact for Klein Independent School District, the district “does not accept outside tests because we cannot verify their validity.”
Gibbons has been attending the Klein Alternative Education Center for about a week now. Her mother had tried to appeal the school's decision to suspend her during a hearing, but Matheson and Principal Randy Kirk denied it. Saxton talked to a lawyer, thinking they might sue the school district for a violation of her daughter's civil rights. But her attorney told her that by the time the case wrapped up, Gibbons would be out of college, and there would be no monetary reward. Saxton began to wonder, where should this end?
She decided to just let it end in 30 days. After Gibbons's time at the alternative school (which she is required to complete under Texas law), Saxton does not plan to send her back to Klein Collins, and instead will enroll her in online courses, unable to pay for private school as a single mom.
Yesterday, during Gibbons's third day at the alternative school, she called Saxton crying, asking her not to make her keep going there. Saxton felt there was nothing else she could say except, “You have to—you don't have a choice.”