4 Things to Do If Your Kid Is Caught With Drugs at School

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Finding out that your tween or teen was caught with drugs at school can leave you feeling like you are in the midst of a huge catastrophe.

It may help you to know that your child is not alone. In 2017, National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reported that teen drug use is down and holding steady, with the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey showing the lowest levels in the past 20 years. In 2019, recent data from the MTF survey shows that the rates of usage of illicit drugs over the past year among teens—not including marijuana—still range from about 15 percent among eighth-graders to about 38 percent among high school seniors.

Daily marijuana usage, however, was up in 2019 compared to 2018, due to the growing popularity of vaping. It was the second largest jump in the MTF's 45 years of survey history (the largest was nicotine vaping in 2017–2018).

Getting caught with drugs at school, including marijuana and even alcohol, can bring a host of complicated issues for parents to navigate. There are the rules of the local school, as well as any juvenile or criminal laws that vary by state and local jurisdiction pertaining to possession of the substance on school grounds. There's also the concern of the health and behavioral effects of substance use or the activity.

Steps to Take If Your Child Is Caught With Drugs or Alcohol at School

Each local school district and state will have its own laws and rules that will apply in each situation. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma, there are some things to immediately consider that can help you handle the consequences that can result when your child is caught with drugs.

Consider Contacting a Lawyer Right Away

If your child or teen was caught bringing drugs to school, they almost certainly will be suspected of violating local criminal or juvenile delinquency laws. Each state has its own set of criminal codes that differ from one another. Laws regarding questioning, search, and property seizure all vary between states.

Contacting an attorney early on can help protect your child's rights. Often, the earlier an attorney is contacted the more the attorney may be able to advise you and your child of their rights and options.

The idea behind contacting an attorney as soon as you can isn't to prevent your child from experiencing consequences of their actions, but to help ensure the best outcome possible for your child or teen given the circumstances.

Criminal and juvenile delinquency cases can have long-lasting effects on a young person's life. There is the possibility of having a court record that could follow them into adulthood, potentially impacting college admissions and career choices. Fortunately, most states do have special juvenile or first-time offender options that can keep a first drug offense from permanently impacting a young person's future. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to help guide you and your child through the local process.

An attorney specializing in youth or drug offenses will be familiar with how local cases are handled. Some areas have local youth courts or are able to dismiss charges if a teen attends appropriate treatment or counseling. Be sure to find an attorney who specializes in youth, drug-related crimes.

An attorney should be able to offer advice beginning in the investigation period, and then throughout any cases if charges are filed against your tween or teen.

Keep in mind that there are both the rules of the school as well as local laws that your tween or teen may have violated. If you would like the attorney to advise you on issues with the school, be sure to make that clear upfront.

Consider Getting a Professional Drug or Alcohol Use Evaluation

Sometimes parents have been suspicious that their child may be experimenting with drugs before they're caught at school with them. Oftentimes, however, parents are shocked. What may come as an even more difficult thought for a parent who is caught off-guard: If your child was caught, it probably wasn't their first time using the drug.

You can speak with your child's primary medical provider for a referral for a quality evaluation. If you have consulted with an attorney, they may also be able to provide advice on getting an evaluation and how an evaluation may impact your child's case.

Get Any Notification of Suspension or Other Disciplinary Measures in Writing

Most schools will place a student who is caught with drugs or alcohol on some sort of suspension where the student has at least temporarily lost their rights to sit in a classroom. These disciplinary actions are usually governed by a series of policies written out in a student's rights handbook.

Be sure to get, and keep, a written copy of any disciplinary measure that is taken by the school towards your child. This written form should tell you exactly what your child is being disciplined for, and outline the exact disciplinary measure as indicated by the school's policy. The form should detail how long the suspension should last, and what your child needs to do to return to school.

You should also receive information on how to appeal the suspension. If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), they may have some extra protections. The needs of the student as listed in the IEP will need to be considered in the discipline process. This doesn't mean that a child with an IEP cannot be suspended, but rather that the circumstances of the suspension need to be considered along with the disability.

In some cases, your child may be expelled rather than suspended. Again, you will want to be sure to get and keep any records or documents. If your child is expelled, be sure to find out if it is for the remainder of the school year or longer. Ask if there are conditions that will allow your child to return to school. Find out what other options your child will have available to them, whether transferring to another school or attending a program for students who have been expelled.

Ask What Your Child Needs to Do to Return to School

The suspension paperwork may list any steps that your child needs to follow before being allowed back into school, but it may not include everything your child will need to do to return to regular schoolwork and be successful.

In addition to the actions listed on the discipline form, your child or teen may miss school work during the time of any suspension. Find out from the school what work your child will need to complete, and how they will be able to complete it while suspended.

Eligibility for extracurricular activities may also be affected. Be sure to ask about how any school activities your child participates in will be affected, and if there are steps they can take to become involved again.

A Word From Verywell

While the fallout from your teen being caught with drugs in school can be very stressful, in time things should become normal again. While the repercussions of being caught with drugs or alcohol at school can be serious, these same incidents often lead to the discovery of an issue that needs attention, whether behavioral, emotional, or related to chemical dependency.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Marijuana. Updated December 2019.

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