SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Five-year-old Brooke Adams and her parents are fighting the girl's school district to allow her to attend kindergarten while using medical marijuana.
The Press Democrat reported Wednesday that Brooke uses cannabis oil to control severe and frequent long-lasting seizures resulting from Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. The girl's preschool had previously accommodated Brooke and allowed her to attend the school with a nurse and the cannabis oil. But the school district recommended that her parents homeschool Brooke for elementary school so that her medicine could be administered at home. Officials from the Rincon Valley Union School District say that state and federal regulations prohibit medical marijuana on school premises even though marijuana is legal in California.
The Adams' attorney Joe Rogoway argues that school regulations violate the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by failing to provide children with disabilities needed services and accommodations required by law for them to attend school.
Judge Charles Marson presided over a two-day hearing beginning last Wednesday and gave each side until August to submit their closing arguments.
Jana Adams is Brooke's mother and said that she uses both CBD and THC cannabis oil to control Brooke's seizures. "The THC actually works like a rescue medication," said Adams, adding that the CBD was for seizure maintenance and the THC was for emergencies.
"It stops the seizures within three minutes, and that's really the life-saving part for us." The cannabis oil shortens Brooke's seizures and prevents her from needing emergency medical treatment. Brooke's seizures have been reduced to about once weekly from the daily doses of cannabis oil.
Adams also says that the social aspects of school are crucial for Brooke's development, aptly noting, "Going to school, she's able to socialize. By not going to school, she's not able to play with others." The nurse who attended preschool with the girl also testified that Brooke benefited from the social interaction that the school provides.
School Worries Accommodating Girl Would Jeopardize Federal Funding
The school district's assistant superintendent for student services Cathy Myhers claims that regulations require school officials to prohibit medical marijuana on school grounds. Adams would have to bring the medicine to the school if Brooke attended classes and had a seizure.
Adams says that the school notifying her about a seizure is a waste of time and thinks that the nurse should be able to administer the cannabis oil immediately in the event that Brooke had a seizure. "What Brooke needs is someone at the school to administer and keep it on campus," said Adams.
Myhers cited a California Health and Safety Code, which states that no person can smoke or ingest cannabis within 1,000 feet of a daycare, youth center, or school. Myhers also cited the federal Every Student Succeeds Act which requires schools to remain drug-free.
The assistant superintendent said that she hoped the government would provide guidance on how to allow medical marijuana on campus without violating the law and jeopardizing funding. Medical marijuana is legal in 30 states and Washington, D.C. but remains illegal under federal law. "Our goal is to serve the needs of our students," she said, adding that the only alternative is a home-based school program.
Adams says that she wants Brooke to experience the same environment that the other school kids get to have. Rogoway says that federal law should allow Brooke to go to kindergarten and be allowed to have her medicine kept on school premises. The school district and the Adams each have until August 27 to submit their closing arguments to Judge Marson.