School suspends boy for one year for carrying marijuana-looking leaf

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. -- An 11-year-old boy was suspended for an entire year after school authorities discovered a leaf they mistakenly thought to be marijuana in his backpack. Now the parents are filing a suit against the school and the sheriff's office.

According to The Roanoke Times, the 11-year-old son of school teachers Bruce and Linda Bays was suspended for a full year from Bedford Middle School last September, after an assistant principal found a leaf in the child's backpack that he mistakenly thought was from a marijuana plant.

The student has since been forced to be homeschooled, evaluated by a psychiatrist for substance abuse and charged with drug possession in juvenile court. The child's mother claims her son believes his life is over and that he will never get into college.

She says he is now withdrawn, depressed and suffering from panic attacks.

However, the leaf that school authorities say was marijuana wasn't at all, and now thought to be a leaf belonging to a Japanese maple tree. After testing negative for marijuana on three separate occasions, prosecutors dropped the charges against the boy.

The sixth grader is due to return to school this week, under strict probation, however the parents say the past six months have wrecked havoc on the boy's psyche.

The Roanoke Times reports that the parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Bedford County Schools and the Bedford County Sheriff's Office on Feb 3., charging Assistant Principal Brian Wilson and school operations chief Frederick Duis of violating the boy's due process rights. The suit also charges the officer at the school, Deputy M.M. Calohan, of "malicious prosecution" after filing the drug charges against the boy despite field tests indicating the leaf was not marijuana.

"The field test came back not inconclusive, but negative," said Bays' attorney, Melvin Williams. "Yet she went to a magistrate and swore he possessed marijuana at school."

The school's and sheriff's lawyer, attorney Jim Guynn, has reportedly moved to dismiss the suit because he claims that, under the school board's anti-drug policies, it may not matter whether the leaf was marijuana or not.

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