Santa Rosa girl who uses medical cannabis to treat seizures seeks admission to public schools
A state judge will hear arguments this week on a decision by the Rincon Valley Elementary School District to bar a 5-year-old girl from taking cannabis-based medication onto campus with her, a case that highlights issues with state and federal rules prohibiting medical marijuana in schools.
Brooke Adams lives in Rincon Valley and has Dravet Syndrome, a rare disease that causes frequent and long-lasting seizures. Other complications include problems with controlling body temperature and developmental delays, the Dravet Syndrome Foundation website says.
Brooke’s mom, Jana Adams, said her daughter relies on cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, to fend off her seizures daily. Brooke additionally takes THC oil, which is applied to her gums, when seizures strike even while on the CBD oil.
“CBD is more like maintenance,” Jana Adams said. “The THC actually works like a rescue medication. It stops (the seizures) within three minutes, and that’s really the life-saving part for us.”
The school district accommodated Brooke two years ago when she started going to preschool. It paid for her to attend Humboldt Community Preschool, a private school that agreed to work with Brooke and allowed her to bring cannabis-based medication to school, Jana Adams said.
But Rincon Valley does not allow students to bring THC medication on campus. While Brooke was preparing to start elementary school early this year, the district proposed Brooke be home-schooled instead, Jana Adams said.
Cathy Myhers, assistant superintendent for student services at the school district, cited several legal barriers that prevent school officials from allowing students to use medical cannabis on campus.
Under the California Health and Safety Code, no one can smoke or ingest cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or youth center. A federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, ensures a drug-free environment on school campuses across the country, Myhers said.
“Our goal is to serve the needs of our students,” Myhers said. “I hope that we will receive guidance on how to best serve the needs of students who require medical cannabis, on a public school campus, without breaking the law and jeopardizing our state and federal funding. The only alternatives that I am aware of would be to serve students through a home-based program.”
Jana Adams argues the school is legally obligated to provide her daughter with appropriate schooling, and that homeschooling is not a good alternative.
“Going to school, she’s able to socialize,” Jana Adams said. “We’re hoping the judge will agree that (her placement in) home-bound school is inappropriate for her.”
Brooke’s case was submitted to the California Office of Administrative Hearings’ Special Education Division on May 14, the office’s website shows. The division is responsible for resolving disagreements between school districts and parents of children with disabilities, according to its website.
A two-day public hearing for Brooke’s case will start at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Santa Rosa’s Madrone Elementary School in Room 18, Jana Adams said.
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