The mother of an eighth-grader at Medlin Middle School says her daughter’s punishment of 88 days in alternative school is too harsh for an incident involving a canned alcoholic beverage.
Lainey Tackett, 13, said she was standing in line waiting for class this year when another student handed her a can of Bud Light Cran-Brrr-Rita that she mistook for canned cranberry juice, such as Ocean Spray or V8 V-Fusion.
She said she put the drink in her backpack and took it home, not realizing it contained alcohol until she brought it back to school the next day.
“I wish I had been paying more attention and left it at home,” Tackett said, adding that she returned the can to the girl who handed it to her.
By then, it was too late. Tackett had to explain to school administrators why she had alcohol on campus. She was taken off the cheerleading team and sent to alternative school for 88 days.
“This is a horrible situation that she’s basically stuck in the middle of,” said her mother, Misty Tackett, who is worried that her daughter will fall behind in Advanced Placement classes.
Emily Conklin, spokeswoman for Northwest schools, said the district can’t discuss the matter without consent from parents.
“The district would be happy to speak more openly about this particular situation if we have signed consent from the parent allowing us to do so,” Conklin said. “Otherwise, for the protection of the student, we are required not to discuss disciplinary actions.”
Misty Tackett said that she has hired an attorney but that the district’s zero-tolerance stance doesn’t take the girl’s version of events into account. She said it also doesn’t take into account that her daughter is an AP student with no prior offenses.
“It’s a no-win situation because our school has zero tolerance,” Misty Tackett said, adding: “This has been a nightmare.”
Lainey Tackett will be at the alternative campus the rest of the school year unless an upcoming review allows her back at Medlin. She also served one day of in-school suspension and three days of out-of-school suspension, cannot participate in school activities and cannot go on or near the school.
Misty Tackett said her daughter couldn’t try out for the cheerleading squad for next year because she can’t go near the school grounds.
The district’s online Student Handbook and Code of Conduct describes the district as an “Alcohol-Free Zone” and a “Drug-Free School Zone.” Northwest doesn’t allow the possession or use of alcoholic beverages on school property or at school-related or -sanctioned activities on or off school property.
The handbook says placement in the disciplinary alternative education program for nonfelony alcohol infractions is mandatory.
OTHER ZERO-TOLERANCE INCIDENTS
A state law took effect in 2009 that requires school districts to consider extenuating circumstances in making zero-tolerance decisions. Here are examples of high-profile zero-tolerance cases in Dallas-Fort Worth in recent years.
2000: A student at Martin High School was sent to the Arlington school district’s alternative high school campus after authorities found a water bottle inside his Chevrolet Blazer that contained about a thimbleful of alcohol. The student sued the district over its policy.
2002: A student at L.D. Bell High School was expelled after school officials found a bread knife in the back of his pickup. The knife had fallen out of a box that the student and his father had delivered to Goodwill the day before. The student’s one-year expulsion was reduced to five days after his parents appealed to Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district officials.
2004:A student at Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School was suspended after school officials found a small baseball bat in his car. Fort Worth school district officials reinstated the student after he was suspended for four days.
2006: A student at North Crowley High School was sent to the Crowley school district’s alternative campus after he was accused of threatening a teacher. A police citation for assault by threat was dismissed, but the student missed out on a college scholarship and had to delay entering college by a year.