Thursday, December 07, 2006

Student sues over 10-day suspension

By Andrew Clevenger
Staff writer

Kids across America are warned to stay away from “nose candy” in anti-drug campaigns. But a Kanawha County student is fighting his suspension for pretending to put actual candy up his nose.

According to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha Circuit Court Monday, a student-athlete at Sissonville High School was given Smarties candy as a reward for good academic performance. In front of his teacher and fellow classmates, the student pretended to put one of the small candy discs up his nose. Another student used his cell phone to record video of the incident.

Principal Calvin McKinney, who is named as a defendant along with the Kanawha County school board, allegedly called the plaintiff into his office and confronted him about the incident.

“The plaintiff informed ... McKinney ... that at no time did he possess any drug or did he claim to possess any drug,” according to the suit.

Still, McKinney then threatened to suspend the student — identified in the lawsuit only by his initials — unless he joined McKinney’s “Narc Program” and went undercover to find real drug users at the school, according to the suit.

“The [student] was told that he was to ‘hang around the bathroom’ and the school parking lot,” the suit states.

McKinney’s investigation into the incident confirmed that the student was telling the truth about the Smarties candy, according to the suit.

“The plaintiff was informed that even though it was, in fact, just candy ... McKinney needed another ‘Narc’ for his program and that if the student would not agree to enter said Narc Program that he would be suspended,” the suit reads.

After the student and his parents met with school officials and the student refused to cooperate with McKinney’s proposal, he received a 10-day suspension, according to the suit.

McKinney allegedly told the family that his “Narc Program” had been in effect for several years, and this was an opportunity to get a good student to go undercover.

The suit contends that McKinney usually uses the threat of suspension to force students who may be suffering academically to become a part of the “Narc Program.”

As a result of the suspension, which began Friday, the student missed a meeting with recruiters who had visited the school to discuss a scholarship opportunity, the suit contends.

The suit seeks an injunction against the school board and unspecified monetary damages for emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and the loss of a potential scholarship. It contends that requiring the student to seek out potential drug users could put the student in danger.

School board attorney Jim Withrow could not be reached for comment Tuesday.


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