A solemn air hung over a special meeting of the school board Monday evening, as board members weighed whether to suspend without pay a high school teacher for misconduct relating to a seventh grader who somehow drank apple juice spiked with a pharmaceutical used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, while en route to a track meet.
After School Board Attorney Barbara Sanders spelled out the legal details of the charge against Jason Luquis, 30, George Thompson moved, Teresa Ann Martin seconded and the board voted unanimously, without comment, to suspend the high school social studies teacher without pay, a critical step towards a complete firing.
Each of the board members had been given a four-page charge sheet by Superintendent Traci Moses, considered the petitioner in the case. Luquis, who has taught in the district since Aug. 2014, and earns $35,562 annually, was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday, Feb. 27, three days after the incident first unfolded.
On Friday, Feb. 24, Luquis, the track coach, was taking about 40 members of the girls and boys teams to the Bozeman Invitational. As the lone chaperone, Luquis was in violation of school policy that calls for at least one chaperone per 10 students, an infraction noted in Moses’ petition, without further emphasis.
When the bus stopped at a grocery store, to allow students to get a snack and to pick up additional students, the petition says an upperclassman handed the track coach a pill capsule, for a medication that was prescribed to that student for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It says that Luquis admitted to holding onto the pill “for a minute.”
The petition then cites two district policies related to the administering of medications on athletic trips, which stipulate provisions for administering meds according to school rules It says that all such meds be registered with the health clinic, accompanied by a written prescription and authorization of the parent, and administered only by authorized school personnel.
Luquis “knew that that the medication (the student) had with him had not been registered pursuant to the code of conduct, a violation of (school board) policy,” reads the petition.
The charge sheet says student statements and bus video show the seventh grader asked a third student to go inside the grocery and buy him an apple juice, and that when the student returned with the juice, he handed the bottle to the upperclassman.
The upperclassman then “retrieved the pill capsule from (Luquis), and dumped some of the capsule’s contents into the bottle and shook it,” according to the petition. It says that the student then handed the bottle to Luquis, who handed it to the seventh grader.
“(The upperclassman) encouraged (the seventh grader) to shake the bottle and drink it,” it reads. “(Luquis) knew the medication had been placed in the bottle, and one student observed that (Luquis) was laughing when (the upperclassman) handed (the seventh grader) the juice bottle. (He) drank the juice, unaware that the medication had been mixed with the juice.”
The superintendent’s charge of misconduct says that on the return trip, Luquis noted the seventh grader “was calmer than usual, refused to eat, and was clearly lacking energy. Later that night (he) began vomiting and had to be taken to the hospital.”
The petition says a urine screen revealed an amphetamine consistent with the medication placed in the drink. As an amphetamine, Vyvanse, very similiar to Adderall but with delayed release, stimulates the central nervous system, affecting chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.
Law enforcement was notified and a criminal investigation begun. Sheriff A.J. Smith said Monday that neither Luquis nor any of the students involved in the incident would face criminal charges.
Luquis reported the incident Monday to administrators, and said he was unaware the upperclassman had put the medication in the seventh grader’s bottle. As per district procedure, Luquis was placed on administrative leave, and told to have no contact with any students while the investigation was pending.
Karen Peddie, director of human resources for the district, spoke with Roderick Robinson, president of the Franklin County Teachers Association, and asked him to caution Luquis not to speak with any of the students, so as to protect the witnesses. Robinson reassured Peddie he had instructed Luquis to follow these rules.
The petition says school officials later learned, while interviewing the upperclassman, that Luquis was trying to telephone him. It was also learned, says the petition, that the night before the meet, Luquis had driven in his personal vehicle the upperclassman and another student to his house, where they spent the night.
“During the sleepover, (Luquis) learned about the (upperclassman’s) prescription ADHD medication,” reads the petition. “Transporting students in personal vehicles is permitted only under certain circumstances, none of which appear to be present in this instance.”
The petition notes that “it was inappropriate and unprofessional” for Luquis to allow the two students to sleep over at his house, and that this “may be indicative of employee misconduct.”
Luquis, who was not present at Monday’s special meeting, has until March 21 to decide whether to contest the charges, which would lead to a hearing either before an administrative law judge in Tallahassee, or before the school board.
His Tallahassee attorney, H.B. Stivers was not present at Monday’s meeting. Moses’ attorney. Holly Dincman, was present at the special meeting, but did not address the school board.