Those who laugh at the idea of the school to prison pipeline should hear the case of 15-year-old Jakayla Johnson. The sophomore was in a class of about 30 students at Garner Magnet High School in North Carolina when a school resource officer entered the room saying they could smell marijuana from the hallway. After a brief search of the room the resource officer singled out the young girl, asking her to spread her fingers. Once spread, they smelled Jakayla’s fingers and asked them to come to the office. She was further searched, no marijuana nor drug paraphernalia was found. Yet Jakayla was placed on a five day suspension for…drum roll please….POSSESSION of marijuana.
I was feeling embarrassed because they called me out of everybody,” the 15-year-old told a reporter. Jakayla further added “They told me to spread my fingers and they smelled my fingers.ADVERTISEMENT
“It was explained to Jakayla that for her hands to smell so pungently of marijuana, she would have to have possessed it in her hands at some recent point in time,” according to the documents released to the media.
How can something like this happen in America some would ask. But if you asked this question in a low income or minority based area you’d hear that things like this happen every day. Stories like this don’t get national press though. They would rather show you stories about animal rights before highlighting civil rights issues like these. This child has been pulled out of school at a critical time of the school year for any child and is missing tests and classwork because someone says she “smelled” like weed.
Her mother was shocked when the school contacted her with the allegations and she took Jakayla that day to a local lab to be drug tested. She tested negative for any drugs or alcohol. Her mother returned to the school, test in hand, looking for an apology and to have her daughter reinstated. What she got instead was paperwork showing that her daughter was being placed on a five day suspension for possession of marijuana.
When she questioned school officials as to why her daughter was being charged with possession of marijuana when none had been found on her. She was told there was no box to check for “smelling” like weed.
Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, recently told NPR “Black girls are getting the message that no one wants them there [in school] more than other girls.” Black girls are six times more likely to get suspended for white girls.”
As part of her punishment Jakayla is also forced to attend drug classes or face suspension for the remainder of the school year. Her mother is appealing her suspension, a hearing is scheduled for May 18, 2016.
Stories like this break My heart. I have a 15-year-old son. I worry about him every day. Is he out here respecting the upbringing that I’ve tried to give him or following the crowd. I worry about overzealous school officers macing him or attacking him for not moving fast enough or daring to speak back. I have to worry about him traveling through the streets of Baltimore to get home safely and NOW….now I have to worry that someone might not like the way he smells and decide to burden him with a charge that will follow him for life.
What is happening to our society? Will we stand for it? Will you sit silent while things like this happen until it happens to YOUR child? Make this story go viral. Jakayla doesn’t deserve this, My son doesn’t; and if we sit silent and let the mainstream media ignore things like this they will be yanking people off the streets soon saying we smelled like we committed a crime. This can’t be America.
Thinker, Avid Reader, Couch Potato. Sapphire Hill is a writer from Baltimore Maryland who loves to delve deeper into the whys of everything. Staff writer for 86 Blvd and Badd Magazine. Blogger and talent promoter for Sapphire Spotlight On Talent.