Scandal can't keep teacher down

March 9, 2009 5:35:24 PM PDT
There was a big welcome back for a Houston teacher who had been placed on leave after police found prescription drugs in her car. That arrest was just one of several random drug sweeps of school parking lots that has some people demanding that HISD change the way it looks for drugs on campus. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Popular art teacher Mindy Herrick has always maintained that the two Xanax pills found inside her car weren't hers. While some parents welcomed her back with open arms, others are wondering, if this had happened to a student, would the student be back at school?

Applause and tears greeted Herrick. The much loved art teacher was reunited with her students nine weeks after she was swept up in the slew of random parking lot drug searches across HISD.

"They are not afraid to speak, and they're not afraid to show their emotions," Herrick said of her students. "They're great artists and they find the truth. They find the truth and I am so happy."

Herrick has always maintained that the pills were not hers. The school district has released a statement saying in part, "All cases are reviewed individually based on HISD policy, separate from any legal action being taken by the DA."

But parents who fought for Herrick says HISD overreacted.

"I think they were making this up as they went along, and they have no policy in place," said parent Beth Brown.

We asked some students what would happen if their classmates got caught in a similar situation.

"They wouldn't have let a kid come back to school," said high school junior Tara Mandoza. "I don't think so."

HISD says students are governed by a student's code of conduct. If anything banned or illegal were found in a car, the school principle would have some discretion on discipline. The teacher's union says students and teachers should be treated differently, because they are.

"A teacher may carry a prescription with them," explained Gayle Fallon with the Houston Federation of Teachers. "They don't' have to register at the nurse's office, a child does. There's a major difference there."

Officials we talked to say they'll look into how drug search policies are applied across the board. As for Herrick, the legality of her case is still up to the district attorney.

The school district has said that its board members are reviewing the practice of random searches in parking lots. There is a school board meeting on Thursday. Several parents we talked to say they'll be there to ask the school board to come up with a definitive policy that everyone can comprehend.

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