A judge on Monday temporarily ordered the Northwest Independent School District to reinstate a high school student suspended after a search found marijuana under a seat in her recently-purchased used car.
The girl’s parents insisted the marijuana wasn’t hers after a drug-sniffing dog alerted on her car on the V.R. Eaton High School parking lot.
The student, Caroline Rhodes, 17, a junior, was suspended from classes for three days, assigned to an alternative school for 45 days, and removed from the drill team, her family said.
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"I was really, really excited," Rhodes said after returning to school Monday.
Rhodes’ parents said they bought the used car in December and speculated the marijuana had been left inside by the previous owner, a college student, adding they never had the car detailed.
The girl passed a drug test the very next day, her mother Brandy Rhodes said.
"She didn't do it. She's not guilty," Brandy Rhodes said. "They said, 'This is a black and white policy. We have no discretion.'"
In her ruling, Tarrant County District Judge Susan McCoy concluded the teenager would probably win her lawsuit and ordered the district to allow the student back to classes and the drill team for 14 days.
“There is evidence that administrators failed to adhere to the NWISD Student Code of Conduct,” McCoy wrote.
The judge said the district failed to consider factors like a lack of intent before deciding the punishment.
"It was crazy," Brandy Rhodes said after learning about the decision. "We were screaming. We were crying. We were calling people. They were crying."
A hearing is set for March 6 at which time the judge could make the temporary order permanent.
When Rhodes returned to school on Monday after the court order, she was placed in in-school suspension, according to her attorney.
“This is plainly an act of retaliation against Caroline” and violated the spirit of the court order, the family’s attorney Frank Hill wrote the district.
After the attorney’s letter, which threatened more legal action, the district allowed her to return to normal classes, Hill said.
Northwest ISD spokesman Anthony Tosie declined comment, citing the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the district claims that Judge McCoy has no jurisdiction over a school discipline case and appealed the judge’s decision, Hill said.
“Government entities get drunk on their own power,” Hill said. “We’re happy where it is now.”