There’s an absurd story in The Washington Post, about a high school student in Fairfax, Virginia, who faced a two-week suspension, with the possibility of expulsion. The crime? Taking her birth control during school lunch hours.
The article explains:
"For two decades, many schools have set zero-tolerance policies on drugs. That means no over-the-counter drugs, no prescription drugs, no pretend drugs in student lockers or pockets. When many teens have ready access to medicine cabinets filled with prescription medications such as Xanax and Vicodin, any capsule or tablet is suspect."
In Fairfax County, this even includes Tylenol. Cough drops are permitted, but may not be shared with other students.
The laws are as inconsistent as they are oppressive. Says the article:
"During two weeks of watching television game shows and trying to keep up with homework online, the Fairfax teen, an honor student and lettered athlete, had time to study the handbook closely. If she had been caught high on LSD, heroin or another illegal drug, she found, she would have been suspended for five days. Taking her prescribed birth-control pill on campus drew the same punishment as bringing a gun to school would have."
It’s insane that a harmless birth control pill is placed in the same category as hard drugs or illegal guns. Also, shouldn’t there be exceptions for students who take responsibility for their reproductive choices?
Many argue in the comments attached to the article that it is the girl’s fault for not adjusting her pill schedule so that she ingests them outside of school hours, or that it is the girl’ss fault for not following her school’s policy of taking medicine at the school nurse’s office; these points ignore the larger question, about why there are such powerful punishments for using birth control outside of the nurse’s office. The student explained that, "She did not see the logic in making a special trip to see the nurse, a relative stranger, each day during her 25-minute lunch break."
The school claims that it doesn’t want to be held liable if a child has an allergic reaction to a pill. It seems reasonable, but couldn’t a student have an adverse and dangerous reaction to school cafeteria food that has, say, peanuts in it? Liability isn’t a reasonable argument in favor of such a strict punishment for a legal pill.
Why shouldn’t she be able to administer her birth control pill on her own terms?