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MESA/IRVINE: NEWPORT BEACH

Trustees OK Transfer of Student Per Drug Policy

April 10, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

School trustees have upheld the punishment of a student found with an alleged marijuana pipe in his car, even though the teen contends police discovered it during an illegal search.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board voted 7 to 0 Wednesday night to uphold the forced transfer of senior Ryan Huntsman from Corona del Mar High School to Newport Harbor. The district's zero-tolerance drug policy requires violators to transfer and also forgo school sports.

"The policy specifically says you can't be in possession of paraphernalia going to or from school or on campus," board President James M. Ferryman said Thursday.

"I think this violation was rather mild in nature," he said, adding that he wished the board had more flexibility in doling out punishments. But "our policy doesn't allow for that, otherwise it wouldn't be 'zero tolerance.' "

According to police, Huntsman was pulled over Feb. 19 for playing his car radio too loudly. An officer searched the car and found a plastic bag and a pipe, which he suspected were used for marijuana.

Huntsman, 18, said the pipe belonged to a friend. The officer ticketed the teen for the radio but noted the pipe and bag in his report. Based on that report, the district invoked its drug policy.

The student's Irvine-based attorney, David Shores, said that the officer had no right to search the car based on the minor violation and, therefore, the district had no right to use the evidence against Huntsman. He also noted that Huntsman passed a drug test.

"This is not about zero tolerance but about zero common sense on the part of school board administration," Shores said. "They're more interested in being right than they are in being just."

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