Pubdate: Sun, 26 Nov 2006
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Amie Streater, Staff Writer


John Gaworski thinks his daughter got a raw deal.

On Nov. 2, the 16-year-old senior at Southwest High School in Fort
Worth consented to have her car searched in the campus parking lot
after a drug-sniffing dog indicated that it smelled something.

School officials searched the car and say they found a marijuana seed
in the driver's seat and a small piece of a plant on the floorboard.

The student, whom the Star-Telegram is not identifying because she is
a minor and has not been charged with a crime, denied that the pot was
hers and even offered to take a drug test.

But per school district policies, she was sentenced to 25 days of
alternative school, a crushing blow to the honors student.

Now for the twist: Her father is a 19-year police officer with the
North Richland Hills Police Department. He said he comes into contact
with marijuana regularly in the course of his job and says it is
likely that he somehow accidentally put the drug traces in the car,
which is usually driven by his daughter.

"We agree with safe schools, but feel common sense should be
considered when discipline is applied," Gaworski wrote in a written
appeal of his daughter's punishment.

Gaworski also stated in the appeal that the amount of marijuana found
in the girl's car was "minuscule and unusable."

"We have an innocent child who has been removed from her honor classes
and placed into an environment that could delay her educational
goals," he wrote. "She is embarrassed, humiliated, scared and just
wants to disappear. One week ago she was full of energy and excitement
about her future. Now she wants to drop out of school and get her GED.

"She had plans to graduate in 2007. She is eligible to apply for
scholarships, however with this incident, it may diminish her chances."

The student told The Watchdog that she had wanted to study nursing at
Texas A&M, Texas Tech or Texas Christian University.

But now she's worried that having an assignment to alternative school
for drug possession on her high school transcripts will hurt her
chances of getting in.

"It's just not fair," she said.

Normally, The Watchdog raises an eyebrow to outcries of injustice when
they relate to teenagers and marijuana.

But Gaworski gave The Watchdog dozens of pages of documentation
proving his daughter's academic success and her record of good
behavior in school. He had made scrupulous notes of dates, times, and
the names of people he and his daughter had talked to.

The Watchdog contacted Barbara Griffith, a spokeswoman for the Fort
Worth school district. She cited student confidentiality rules in
declining to discuss the student's case in detail, but she e-mailed
the following:

"There are two issues we look at in student disciplinary matters. They
are: (1) whether there's been a violation of the Code of Conduct and,
if so, (2) what are the appropriate consequences? In each case, we
thoroughly consider all of the evidence before making a final decision."

That e-mail came Wednesday, Nov. 15, the day after Gaworski's
disciplinary appeal was denied.

In the denial letter, Deputy Superintendent Pat Linares stated that
the student's case would be reviewed on Nov. 17.

And on that day, the tide mysteriously turned. She was told she could
go back to school.

Griffith declined to explain why the discipline was cut to six days,
but she wrote: "If a case is appealed, the appeals panel may elect to
review the case at any time during the student's placement. When the
case is reviewed, several factors are considered: the student's
behavior in alternative school, her past academic performance and her
past overall behavior. The nature and severity of the offense are also

"It's possible that the student will then be sent back to her home
school although the case itself is still found to have had merit."

Gaworski said he is glad his daughter his back in school, but he is
still upset that she was punished to begin with.

And he's worried about her chances of getting into one of her chosen

"The outcome is fine, but it should never have gotten that far,"
Gaworski said. "I am concerned that other students might have to go
through the same stuff and the parents may not know what recourse they
have. They may just think, 'Hey, the school is right.'" 
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