ABSTRACT # 1: Up in Smoke
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Constitutional crusader Sherry Hearn, a social studies teacher
with 27 years teaching experience, was fired from the Savannah-Chatham
County School System in Georgia when a half-smoked marijuana
joint was found in her car during a routine drug search at Windsor
Forest High School. When confronted about the marijuana by the
school's principal, Mrs. Hearn denied the drugs were hers. She
also explained that "one of her electric windows in her car
was not working and was stuck open; anyone could have stashed
the pot there." (Lindsay, 1997, p. 2) After central-office
administrators had been contacted to confirm the proper procedures
to be enforced, Sherry Hearn was immediately suspended and was
required to take a drug test within two hours.
Ms. Hearn had previously argued vehemently against drug testing
and searches because she considered them unconstitutional. She
felt that her current circumstances provided an opportunity for
her to fight for what she believed in. She initially refused to
have the test performed. However, thirty hours after the marijuana
was discovered, Sherry reluctantly took a drug test on the advice
of two attorneys. The test results were negative. Despite the
negative test results, presentation of several character references
and awards, including Savannah Teacher of the Year, and 27 years
teaching experience, the school board voted 5 to 1 to terminate
her. One board member characterized Hearn's behavior as "naked
insubordination." The board's president added, "It came
down to the board feeling very strongly about our drug-free workplace
policy. If an employee faced a reasonable suspicion of drug use
and was allowed to say, 'I'm not taking the test,' we would never
be able to enforce the policy again." (Lindsay, 1997, p.16)
Many would agree with the board member that referred to Sherry
Hearn's stand as "naked insubordination." According
to the 1988 edition of the New Webster's Dictionary one definition
of naked is to be "open to view; mere, bare, simple."
According to the same source, insubordination is "the act
of not submitting to authority; riotous." By the mere combination
of the definitions, the phrase "naked insubordination"
seems to correctly define Hearn's actions.
Is that all that her actions symbolize? In comparison to other
implications from her actions, is naked insubordination that important?
Our schools teach and glorify American freedom, but seek "to
regulate every aspect of the student's life." (Wirt &
Kirst, 1992, p. 47) Is the Hearn drug issue another example of
American schools attempting to drive "organizations toward
stabilization and regularity?" (Wirt & Kirst, 1992, p.
47) When it comes to American schools and/or constitutional rights
we fail to "live the life we preach/teach about." Because
of this conflict, many high school students "turn off"
education. They see it as meaningless and inapplicable to their
lives. If more instances similar to the Hearn case continue to
occur in today's schools, more students will dismiss education
and educators as unrealistic, unnecessary, and useless in the
Kirst, M.W., & Wirt, F.M. (1992). Schools in Conflict
(3rd ed.). California: McCutchan.
Lindsay, D. (1997) Up in Smoke. [On-line} Available: http://www.edweek.org/tm/current/04drug.h08