School officials described Nick’s infraction as possession of “an imitation controlled substance” and behavior “incompatible with a k-12 educational environment.”
Substance abuse is common among high schoolers. There are no statistics available for the use of JWH-018, but the county survey found that 38 percent had tried marijuana by 12th grade.
The Student Responsibilities and Rights handbook says that a first offender under the influence of cocaine or Ecstasy at school would get five to 10 days of suspension — which would mean no expulsion threat, no hearing process, no school transfer. The same goes for students who possessed alcohol or were drunk.
But Nick Stuban’s infraction, even though it involved a legal substance, fell into a more serious disciplinary category.
“It didn’t make sense,” said Steve Stuban, who said school officials told him they also had not heard of JWH-018. “You have an infraction, you don’t know what the substance is and you arbitrarily apply the harshest standard to it.”
Scanlan, the hearing officer, said that the same standard is applied to all cases of possessing drugs, controlled substances or imitation substances. That includes even oregano if it is packaged to look like marijuana. Being under the influence is different, she said, because “that student hasn’t brought anything on school grounds” that endangers others.
On Nov. 16, Nick pushed his mother’s ventilator-equipped wheelchair into the hearing room, accompanied by his father and his mother’s nurse. They had requested the file on Nick’s case and read through it. But they had not talked to a lawyer, following the advice of a Woodson administrator who Steve Stuban said cautioned against bringing in one because it might create a confrontational climate.
According to 13 pages of handwritten notes taken by a district employee, a Woodson assistant principal described the infraction and said Nick seemed remorseful. His locker, backpack and person were searched. No drugs were found and the case rested on “words from providers.”
Mostly Nick answered questions: Who sold it? How? When? What did it look like? Who watched? Where did it happen? How many times? Where did he get the money? What would your coach think? Are Advil or Tylenol allowed at school?
“I understand what I did was wrong, but not at the time,” Nick said, according to the notes.
Nick told hearing officers that he aspired to be a doctor and that he hoped to play football in college. He talked about how much he liked Woodson — his friends, teachers, coaches. How he had been keeping up with his studies.
“Not worth this,” the note-taker quoted Nick as saying.