A Japanese maple leaf may resemble marijuana, but it's not the same thing. Which is why it's so shocking that carrying the innocent, stimulant-free leaf in his backpack got a sixth grader suspended from school — for an entire year.
Earlier this year, the boy showed up at his middle school in Bedford, VA (where he's in the gifted-and-talented program), with a plant resembling a marijuana leaf in his backpack, according to The Roanoke Times. After hearing rumblings among other students that "RMB" (how the child is being referred to in court documents) had marijuana in his possession, the assistant principal searched for and found the leaf, and the school issued a one-year suspension.
Months after the fact, the leaf was tested for narcotic substances — and found to be negative — three separate times, and a prosecutor dropped the juvenile court charge against RMB. He returned to school yesterday, under strict probation.
The only problem? The innocent student still served six months of his suspension and, according to his parents, has suffered immense psychological damage from the incident. He's currently being treated by a pediatric psychiatrist for panic attacks and depression. "He just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job," Linda Bays, RMB's mother, said.
Under the Bedford school system's antidrug policy, it may not matter whether the leaf was actually marijuana or not, as real and "look-alike" drugs are treated the same way. "It's the same punishment and exactly the same result," sheriff's attorney Jim Guynn told The Roanoke Times.
How would you react if this had been your child? Was he pushing the limits by bringing in something that resembled drug paraphernalia, or was the punishment far too harsh?