A month after two kindergartners were suspended from a Carroll County school for possession of a prescription medicine, the county school system suspended two high school students for unauthorized use of aspirin.
As with the two-day suspension of the 5-year-olds from Westminster Elementary, the recent five-day suspension of the students from Westminster High School was the result of strict enforcement of the county's policy against drug and alcohol use in schools.
The father of one of the students suspended from Westminster High last month said he supported the county policy that forbids unsupervised consumption of medicines and felt responsible for not being aware of it. He asked that his daughter's name not be printed, but said he hopes that publicity about the case will help other parents become familiar with the policy.
"Who knows what a tablet really is," he said, explaining that an aspirin bottle could easily contain some other substance that might be harmful.
The father said his daughter came down with a migraine headache at school and that a friend gave her some aspirin. When the two students went to the school office and explained her illness and the fact that she took aspirin for it, they were suspended.
Peter B. McDowell, director of Carroll County secondary schools, said the school's policy is for students who need medicine to take it to the school health suite with a signed parental consent form. The health suite would then administer the medicine, he said.
"We can't have students go around medicating themselves legally or illegally in a school," McDowell said, explaining that in some cases, students can abuse legal, over-the-counter drugs, such as cough medicine, to get high.
McDowell cited five cases since late last spring of students violating the policy requiring consent forms for legal medical drugs in schools. At the same time, he said, "we don't want to be lurking at the water fountain waiting for someone to take Tylenol."
McDowell said the school system may need to do more to convey the policy to parents, although he said the policy is already spelled out in a summer newsletter to parents and in a student-faculty handbook.
The overall policy against drugs and alcohol has succeeded over the past few years in reducing the number of drug and alcohol-related disciplinary cases, McDowell said, and he could not foresee any move to make marked changes in it.