The Clear Creek Independent School District Board of Trustees upheld the suspension earlier this year of a 17-year-old year student that stemmed from an administrator’s claim that he smelled like marijuana.
Clear Creek High School junior James Collins was suspended after school officials said he failed a field sobriety test.
The suspension prompted Collins’ family to accuse school district officials of discrimination and to appeal a decision to place Collins in a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP).
“I am very disappointed with the district itself,” said NyKisha Owens, Collins’ mother. “They do not have the students’ best interest at heart.”
Collins’ family has filed several appeals with the school district since his January suspension, arguing that he later took a drug test that came back negative and that the administration is biased against him.
But the board in April upheld the decision after discussing the matter in executive session, according to the district’s general counsel.
“The administration is committed to supporting James at Clear Creek High School,” said Leila Sarmecanic, the district’s general counsel, in a letter she sent to Owens. “It is Dr. Greg Smith’s expectation that the rest of James’ high school experience will be successful, both in the classroom and on the football field, and that James will go on to have a very promising future.”
Despite the district’s letter, Collins’ mother said she isn’t happy with how the district conducted itself.
“Now a dangerous precedent is being set that students who smell like weed can be sent to DAEP for 30 days, even though at least three drug tests cleared him of the drug in his system and no drugs or drug paraphernalia was found in his possession,” said Kimberley Yancy, president of the NAACP Dickinson-Bay Area Unit.
Collins had just arrived with a friend at a Clear Creek High School basketball game when an administrator told them they smelled of marijuana and asked a security officer to perform a field sobriety test, Collins told The Daily News in February.
Although Collins’ had run-ins with administration at Clear Creek High School before, matters took a serious turn in September, his mother, Owens, said.
Owens received a call about Collins from school officials who, she said, gave conflicting information before eventually telling her he was being suspended in reference to a sexual harassment investigation, for which he would ultimately miss seven football games and spend 13 days in disciplinary school.
But the district attorney’s office never brought any charges, Owens argued.
“Although we understand there were no charges brought forward, the CCHS administration feels that through our investigation to date, the above behavior occurred,” Principal Jamey Majewski wrote to Owens in an Oct. 22 email.
After months of appeals, however, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Karen Engle eventually overturned Collins’ suspension and promised the family that the administration would not retaliate against him, Owens said.
Then, on Jan. 18, Collins attended the basketball game with a friend, Owens said. Shortly after arriving, an administrator told the two they smelled of marijuana and had a Galveston County Sheriff’s Office deputy perform a field sobriety test, consisting of standing on one leg and watching a finger, among other things, Collins said.
Officials claimed Collins failed the test, according to his family. The district has declined to comment about the matter, citing student privacy laws.
The school’s administration then placed Collins back at the disciplinary school for 30 days, despite the fact that a Jan. 26 drug test came back negative on an initial screening, Owens said.
After the April decision, the family is out of appeals on the district level. But they say they’re searching for an attorney and plan to continue the fight.