ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals Tuesday upheld decisions by the Caroline County Circuit Court and state and local education authorities to expel a sophomore caught using drugs at her high school in October 1994.
The court agreed that there was no coerced confession or mitigating handicap in the case of Monica Miller, of Denton, who had confessed to using LSD at North Caroline High School and was expelled until the following June by the local superintendent.
According to court documents, Monica admitted in a hand- written and signed confession to obtaining the drug from a friend before school and later heading to the bathroom, where she “took half of the acid hit and flushed the rest.”
Monica’s parents argued that she suffered from a learning disability and was therefore entitled to special protection provided to students with disabilities.
Under Maryland law, a student with a disability may not be removed from school for more than 10 days each academic year unless it is decided that an offense was not a result of the disability.
Lawyers for the school system argued that the Millers did not raise the disability issue until after the LSD incident.
“Can a student, a reasonably good student, who suddenly gets caught in an infraction, turn around and say I have a disability?” Leslie Robert Stellman, attorney for the Caroline County Board of Education, asked in an interview Tuesday.
Circuit Judge J. Owen Wise said no. Since Monica “had not been previously classified as handicapped,” he ruled in January 1996, she should not receive special privileges.
The Court of Special Appeals agreed.
The Millers also argued that Monica’s confession was “not supported by substantial evidence,” given that Maryland law prohibits using as evidence a statement made by a student seeking drug counseling.
But in this case, the Court of Special Appeals observed, school officials approached Monica and she readily “admitted to possessing and using a controlled dangerous substance while on school grounds” — in both written and oral statements.
She “was given a complete chance to explain her statements and answers at the [local board of education] hearing and chose to affirm them,” the Court of Special Appeals said.
The court also ruled that Monica was not deprived of her due process rights. The school need only notify the student of the charges against her and give her a chance to explain, it said.
Stellman said Monica is back at North Caroline High School and will graduate in May with her classmates. Lawyers for the Millers could not be reached for comment. -30-