Boy with special needs removed from class for medical marijuana shirt

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Caption
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A Newnan, Georgia, mother is fighting the school system after she says her 9-year-old son was pulled out of class for wearing a shirt with a marijuana leaf on it.

Aiden Whitley was wearing a T-shirt sent to him by a promotional company looking to spread positive awareness about medical marijuana, his mother, Jillian Bramlett, said.

The shirt shows a marijuana leaf with "I’m a patient" in big letters over a question, "Not what you’d expect, huh?"

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When people see the boy wearing the shirt, they get curious and ask questions, Bramlett said.

"It’s given us an opportunity to talk to people about what we’ve been fighting for the last two years," Bramlett said.

Whitley was diagnosed at 10 months old with a rare, genetic form of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and in December 2015 he started taking medications derived from marijuana to control seizures.

The medications are legal in Georgia.

Whitley’s special-needs class is a self-contained unit and many of the children don’t even know what the shirt is about, Bramlett said. She said her fight is about awareness and educating people, such as school administrators, about her son’s needs and how the medicine helps him.

"We’re proud of the shirt and what the medicine has done for him," Bramlett said. "It’s chaotic, it’s horrible, it’s crazy and this (medicine) has helped him so much, and they weren’t open and willing to be educated and to spread awareness. They just don’t want to hear it, and for me that was what the real concern was."

Bramlett said her son was pulled out of his class about 8 a.m. Thursday and held in the main office. He was eventually allowed to return to class without changing.

"He was in the office coloring and not doing his school work," Bramlett said.

Coweta County Schools spokesman Dean Jackson said Elm Street Elementary School officials called Bramlett and she refused to bring a change of clothes.

"An issue arose (Thursday) morning and, originally, the school thought the shirt violated the dress code," Jackson said. "The mother disagreed and appealed, and the child was sent back to class."

On Friday, it was determined the shirt was in violation of the dress code, which states "Shirts that advertise alcohol, tobacco or drugs" are not to be worn.

Superintendent Steve Barker sent a letter home to parents Friday that said, "As you may be aware, school system administrators were asked by a parent to make a determination regarding the school dress code. The question was specific regarding marijuana. Attire that depicts drugs does not meet the system dress code and, therefore, is not allowed at school."

Bramlett said she feels like the message is the point and that because her son’s shirt wasn’t advertising use of an illegal drug, it should have been viewed as a shirt for Tylenol would. She even asked if there would be a problem if she put a piece of tape on the marijuana leaf picture.

Though she wants to fight for awareness and promotion of medical marijuana, Bramlett doesn’t want to disrupt her son’s education.

"I feel like I should send him in the shirt one more time and see if they send him home," Bramlett said.