Niles student with beef jerky punished for having look-alike drugPublished 5:09pm Monday, March 25, 2013
An eighth-grade student at Ring Lardner Middle School in Niles said he believes he was unfairly punished for having a round can of shredded beef jerky at school last week.
Brenton Harrell was one of three students who were disciplined for having a can of beef jerky at Ring Lardner Middle School Wednesday. A fourth student was found with chewing tobacco hidden inside a beef jerky can. That student was suspended because having tobacco products on school grounds is prohibited.
According to school district policy, students are not allowed to have look-alike drugs on school grounds. The can of shredded beef jerky Harrell had looks very similar to a can of chewing tobacco.
The punishment for having a look-alike drug is immediate suspension pending an administrative hearing.
None of the students who had only beef jerky were suspended, according to Ring Lardner Principal Doug Langmeyer. Instead, school officials contacted the students’ parents and sent the students home for the rest of the day.
Harrell said he was not sent home because the school could not get in touch with his parents. He remained in the office until school was let out about two hours later.
Langmeyer said the three students who had beef jerky cans returned to school Monday. Ring Lardner did not have school Thursday or Friday because of parent-teacher conferences.
According to Langmeyer, the beef jerky situation began Wednesday when school officials caught a Ring Lardner student with chewing tobacco hidden inside a round can of shredded beef jerky.
Another student was found, later that day, with a beef jerky can. That can, however, did not have tobacco in it. Harrell said he and another student then went to the principal’s office to turn in their cans of beef jerky. This happened around 1:15 p.m., according to Harrell.
“We didn’t think it was right for just him to go down,” Harrell said.
According to school policy, the students could have been suspended for having a look-alike drug. However, Langmeyer said he believed suspending the students would be an overreaction.
“My thought was lets just send these kids home for a couple hours, lets talk to the parents and get these kids back in school the next day,” he said. “I believe there was a certain level of common sense applied to this situation.”
Harrell said he was concerned the incident would appear on his permanent record.
Langmeyer said the incident would not be on Harrell’s permanent record or the permanent record of the other two students who had beef jerky cans.
“We hear that a lot from parents and, quite honestly, behavioral records do not go to the high school,” he said.
Supt. Richard Weigel said all four students were in the same class.
The student caught with chewing tobacco inside the beef jerky can remained suspended as of Monday morning, pending an administrative hearing.
“We will investigate where he got this,” Weigel said.
Langmeyer said an incident like this has never come up at the middle school before.
“I think I speak for a large majority of our parents that they appreciate we take this kind of thing seriously and that we don’t have tolerance for drug/alcohol look-alikes,” he said.