Yorktown School District Responds to Marijuana Suspension Lawsuit

A high school student and her mother had filed a lawsuit claiming the student was treated unfairly when she was suspended from school over possession of a marijuana joint.

Yorktown school officials have responded to a marijuana possession lawsuit filed against them by a high school freshman and her mother. 

In their response, which was required to be submitted by Monday, Feb. 4, Yorktown school administrators argue the court "should not intervene in a matter of school discipline" between the district and student. 

In the lawsuit, a 14-year-old Yorktown High School student and her mother claim the student was treated unfairly by the school district, the superintendent of schools, high school principal and assistant principal when they suspended her from school over possession of a marijuana joint. 

To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

According to court documents, the student – referred to as "A.S" – had a marijuana joint in her wallet when she attended a "movie night" at the high school on Dec. 21, 2012. She was later subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

The lawyer for the family states in the lawsuit that the girl and her mother –referred to as "J.D." –were "railroaded" and "threatened" during a meeting that if they did not agree to the one-year suspension, and continued to a hearing," there might be a longer suspension.

Rebecca Valk, an attorney for the Yorktown Central School District, wrote in a affidavit that the girl and her mother waived their right to a hearing and signed an agreement to the suspension and understood the student will be readmitted to school, on a probationary basis, on April 15. 

"At no time were J.G. or A.S. coerced into accepting the waiver," Valk wrote. "Rather, they were advised of their options to either accept the waiver on the terms outlined by the district or proceed with the Section 3214 hearing where the building principal may ask the hearing officer to impose a longer penalty tan the offered by waiver."

Valk said the mother was not mislead to believe the suspension would only last five days.

The mother of the girl had expressed "shock" that her daughter would be suspended for three months given she was an honor student who had no disciplinary history, according to court documents.

In response, Valk wrote that she, Principal DeGennaro and Assistant Principal Glading told the woman that the suspension was within the district's range of penalties for this type of offense and that "the possession of a drug on school property is quite serious."

According to the lawsuit, the family is seeking unspecified damages for "emotional distress, current and future medical and related counseling bills, current and future, educational and related expenses, punitive damages, costs and attorneys' fees."

In addition, the family is seeking the school district to expunge the student's records in reference to all disciplinary actions and allow her to return to school.  

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John Spinosa February 12, 2013 at 01:02 PM
The mother of the girl should have express "shock" that her 14 year old daughter was in possession of pot Not "shock" over the suspension that they agreed to . When shes 17 her mother will express "shock" when her daughter is caught dealing pot. Suing the school district is suing your neighbors who follow the rules and pay the taxes.
Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Yorktown is a drug free school system!! As parents we must teach our children that there are consequences in life when you don't follow the rules. Honor student or not. This will prepare them for the real world.
Active Yorktowner February 12, 2013 at 03:00 PM
How about having the punishment fit the crime. This is an honor student with no history of disciplinary action before this. In the NYS Penal system this is so minor it's laughable, but the school has the potential to ruin this girls future over a transgression I am sure she now realizes the severity of...1 week suspension and maybe community service, (ie, talk to school kids, get involved with DARE, etc.). Come on people...in most countries (and some states) pot is legal...let's do what is right by this family.
lori miley February 12, 2013 at 03:46 PM
in some states it's legal..not here. at 14 caught with pot..what's next?
Plamena Pesheva (Editor) February 12, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Here is the latest: Yorktown school district administrators and legal representatives appeared in Federal District Court in White Plains on Monday, Feb. 11, before Judge Kathy Seibel, to defend their actions in the case. From the Yorktown Central School District: "At that time, the plaintiffs order to cause for a preliminary injunction against the discipline was argued and the judge denied injunctive relief, with the court noting that it was unlikely that the plaintiffs would succeed on the merits the case. Since this litigation is still pending, there will be no further comments made to the public or press until the next court ruling is made."
Me Myself & I February 12, 2013 at 04:14 PM
And this is why we are in such sorry shape as a society. Nice work mom!
Active Yorktowner February 12, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Hmmm...well let me tell you, I know plenty of people from my day who smoked pot...they did not go on to anything harder and they are now doctors, lawyers, etc. Some states have made pot legal...why? Because it's not addictive and frankly is no worse than getting drunk. Legislate it, similiar to drunk driving, public drunkiness, open containers, but to potentially ruin a 14yo future, come on, be real. Put yourself in the mom's shoes and then tell me the punishment they have dealt fits.
Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. Maybe this family should seek another school system that is not as stern with drug matters. Let's be proud that Yorktown School District takes this matter serious.
kmr303 February 12, 2013 at 07:12 PM
First of all, I think the girl has been punished enough. She served a suspension and went to the counseling that the school mandated. She's only 14. I don't think taking a child out of school for an extended period of time helps anyone, much less the child. It only serves to isolate the child which could lead to depression and further delinquency. Secondly, it's reassuring to know that all of you who have condemned this girl have never ever done anything stupid, illegal or otherwise when you were an adolescent, or even an adult. We all do dumb things we regret at some point in our lives (well, most of us, anyway, except for those of you who are perfect). She's 14. I'm sure she is remorseful. They could at least keep her on an internal suspension for a while to keep an eye on her, but keep her in school.
Active Yorktowner February 12, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Again with the assumptions. You have no idea where she got it and how. Yes, this is serious, but let's be real and make sure that the punishment fits. The district needs to look at each case individually and base the punishments on many factors, not simply what "the book" tells them to do. Like kmr state, she's been punished enough, and "those in glass houses..." Please look in the mirror and a) tell me you've never done something stupid, and b) if this was your daughter would you take the suspension that was dealt out? IMHO I highly doubt it.
Cortlandt Manor Resident February 12, 2013 at 08:06 PM
First of all, let's stop mentioning that she is an honor student. This should not matter. Are we implying that she should get special privledges compared to students who are not in honor classes. If not, then stop bringing up this fact. Secondly, it seems on a weekly basis that I read the Yorktown paper, there is always an article about the heroin problem in this community. Everyone is asking what can we do to save our children. The community says the schools should do more, the police department should do more. Why then when they try to take an active role is it frowned upon? These young adults who overdosed on heroin did not start with that drug. Most teenagers start experimenting with marijuna and work their way up to stronger drugs. I'm not saying everyone, but it's the first drug most teenagers experiment with so let them know at an earlier age this is unacceptable & will not be tolerated in our schools.
Sesh Murthy February 12, 2013 at 08:46 PM
I agree with Kmr0303. The girl did a stupid thing but has suffered enough. She should be let back into school.
Tom February 13, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Carrying/smoking marijuana leads to heroin? Seriously? I agree with KMR, I have found time and time again that those who condemn and portrait themselves as holier than thou usually have the most checkered history. Suspending a kid for this length of time is an absurdity, and will only hurt the student. Lets get serious here people, I have read some pretty outlandish commentary over this.
Tom February 13, 2013 at 02:09 AM
One other thing I forgot to say. The first drug most people experiment with is alcohol.
JD February 13, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Let's not talk about heroin or for that matter alcohol. The drug was marijuana that is of the issue. Marijuana is an illegal drug that should be no where near a school. The school is responsible for the safety of all their students. I have children in the YCSD and appreciate the action of the district. The rules were in place long before this student broke them. The punishment was not imposed on her by the school; rather it was her actions that brought it upon herself. If these rules are not followed as intend then they lose their effectiveness and possibly create further incidents like this one. I for one feel bad for the student, but feel stronger for the safety of my children and the safety of all the other students. I think her mother should be more concern with why her 14 year old daughter (yes, 14 year old) had pot with her. I would be more concerned and embarrassed about that then trying to make the school look as if they did something wrong.
Yorktowner February 13, 2013 at 06:49 PM
As a parent of a child in YCSD I agree that the schools should be drug free and that students found breaking any of the school rules should be punished. The schools have rules against bullying, harassment, drinking, and drug use, among other things, and maintaining and enforcing all of those rules is critical to maintaining an environment in which all students are safe to learn and grow. When students break any of those rules I expect the administration to take reasoned action to ensure that the student learns from his or her mistake and that the rule is not broken again. The onus is on the Administration to find a punishment that safeguards the student body and that helps the student learn from the mistake. In the case of bringing a joint to a school event, reasonable and productive punishment would be to attend anti-drug training and to spend a proscribed amount of time volunteering in a community program for addicts. This would be a serious limitation on the student's free time and would give the student the opportunity to see the potential danger of drug use. The punishment that the school settled on is extremely overblown and out of proportion to the mistake. What' worse is that the administration is completely ignoring their mandate to take this opportunity to educate the child. What will this girl do at home for 3 months of suspension? She'll probably get stoned a lot. What will she learn. Absolutely nothing. Shame on YCSD for abdicating its responsibilities.
DC February 13, 2013 at 10:05 PM
If you would all remember a few years back, Yorktown lost a young man who was very musically talented and had a bright future to a Heroin overdose. His parents said in a news article that they regret not taking action when they saw their son take part in drugs as minor as Marijuana. Not every person is going to become a hardcore drug user from smoking marijuana but the way that society is today minors have more of a chance of experimenting with these highly addictive drugs. As a parent are you willing to take the risk and let your kids go through that? I think this suspension of the girl from school will make an impact on her life and hopefully next time she will make the right decisions and not associate with drugs or alcohol. The fact that she is an honor student is not helping the case either. She should not be wasting her time with drugs, I applaud the administrators who took action and could have possibly saved this young girls life.
DC February 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=7895095&page=1 Please read this article when referring to my response above.
Yorktowner February 14, 2013 at 01:31 PM
DC what makes you think that being kept out of school for months will make a positive impact on the child? For the majority of 14 year olds the impact of being locked out of school for months would be to become sullen, bored, and angry--just the feelings that drive people to drink and drugs and other destructive behaviors. The school had the opportunity to make this a teachable moment for the child by giving her a meaningful punishment that would help her learn from her mistake. Instead the school neglected its responsibility to teach the student and instead imposed a punishment that will have no positive outcome---and that could ruin her life.
DC February 14, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Yorktowner, Allowing the child to think about what she has done is a very important process. The child can take this in a positive way and understand that what she did was not right. This is also a great opportunity for the parents of this child to step up and do what they should and educate the child not just academically (getting an at home tutor) but on the issue of drugs as well. Maybe take her to a rehab facility and let her see what could happen if drugs took over in her life. Its a method proven to work in the US and there are programs out there such as "scared straight" that can positively influence the child. The point that you think this suspension could drive her to drinking, drugs, and other destructive behaviors is a little bit ridiculous, she is 14 and she will learn and when she is admitted back into school she will be thankful and hopefully never do something like this again. AND the parents making this into such a big deal is just going to cause this young girl more stress, humiliation, and other emotional problems. I don't know about you but I don't want children in my town using drugs maybe this is the way to maybe show others that we aren't joking around about these laws. Yorktown has lost enough adolescents to drug use, why take the risk again?
Yorktowner February 14, 2013 at 11:40 PM
DC, With all due respect I find your expectations of what this 14 year old is going to get out of being kept from school for months and months simply absurd. The likeliest scenario is that she is home alone all day while her parents are at work and her siblings are at school and that she becomes increasingly depressed, bored, lonely, and angry. If you want to find the perfect way to increase the likelihood that a teenager will experiment with destructive behaviors, that's it! While one hopes that her parents will take advantage of this situation to teach the girl important lessons, one cannot assume that they will. Which makes it all the more critical that the school lives up to its obligation to teach the child--an obligation that it is completely ignoring with this suspension. The suspension isn't "tough"--it's just dumb.
jmecrkt February 16, 2013 at 06:50 AM
Yorktowner, gotta love your comments. What will this girl do at home for 3 months. In your words: "She'll probably get stoned a lot." She would become " sullen, bored and angry- just the feelings that drive people to drink and drugs and other destructive behaviors." She will become "increasingly depressed, bored, lonely, and angry." What about our "Honor Student" becoming reflective and responsive and proactive to understand the position she is in and take advantage of this time to strive to excel as "Honer Students" do. But no, as you state, we can't expect a 14 year old to understand this, we also can't assume lessons are taught in the home, but we should expect that our school systems bear the obligation to teach not only academics, but all of life's lessons as well. The suspension isn't "tough." It is "real" and can be a very positive life changing event.
Patrick February 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Can't decide where I fall on the length of the suspension. But I definitely agree that the punishment should be significant enough to let the students know that drugs will not be tolerated in Yorktown schools. As I said earlier, if you feel so strongly that your kids should get away with that sort of thing move down to Yonkers or Mt Vernon. I moved up here to put my kids in a school system that has higher standards than those systems do.
DC February 17, 2013 at 08:48 PM
The original article states that she gave another student the marijuana cigarette. Why was she doing this? Was she gaining something from this? This punishment of 3 months is a lot better for this girl than what the outcome could have been. From Article 221.35 of the New York State Penal Law It states that "A person is guilty of criminal sale of marihuana in the fifth degree.... when he knowingly and unlawfully sells, without consideration, one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing marihuana and the preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of two grams or less; OR one cigarette containing marihuana." IF she was selling this it would have been considered a Class B Misdemeanor. If she wasn't selling it and if the police had caught her it would still be a UPM (Unlawful Possession of Marijuana) as described in the New York State Penal Code 221.05, Do you still think the punishment is not reasonable?


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