State: District 54 student can use medical marijuana at school

Updated 1/12/2018 8:26 PM

Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 will be able to administer medical marijuana to an 11-year-old student without fear of prosecution by the Illinois attorney general's office, officials said Friday.

During a federal court hearing, a lawyer for the attorney general's office said officials for now won't take any legal action against District 54, which is being sued by the girl's parents, Jim and Maureen Surin, after their daughter Ashley's school refused to help administer the medication.

District 54 officials said after Friday's hearing that there are now plans to meet with the family to work out a health care plan enabling the student's return to school.

Ashley Surin, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, wears a medical patch on her foot that contains a small amount of THC and uses cannabis oil drops on her tongue and wrists to control seizures, according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday.

The Surin family asked the district to store the medicine so school personnel could help administer the drops, but the district declined, saying the state's 2014 medical marijuana law prohibits the possession or use of cannabis on school grounds.

The parents have argued the ban is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process, and that there isn't a rational basis for the distinction between where medical cannabis is allowed and school property.

The Surins and their attorney, as well as the attorney for the school district, spoke about the decision at a news conference outside federal court Friday.

"I don't think kids should be limited anywhere if they are taking their medicine. There is no logic," Maureen Surin said.

She said she and her husband have had to fight for her daughter's right to have medicine at school, "just like the next kid has insulin and EpiPen and Tylenol and their medicines. My daughter has the same rights."

Jim Surin said it is critical the legislation be revised to reflect the effectiveness of the medications not just for his daughter but also for other children.

The Surins' attorney, Steve Glink, said the hope is "that this is merely a legislative oversight. Perhaps at the time the law was passed, the legislature didn't contemplate that young children in school may be prescribed and may need marijuana."

Darcy Kriha, the attorney for the District 54, said the decision Friday could reach beyond the district.

"Our firm represents over a hundred school districts in Illinois, and the ramifications of this today will be felt throughout the state," Kriha said.

Attorneys for the Surins and school district are expected to be back in court next Thursday.

• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson and Steve Zalusky, and ABC 7 Chicago contributed to this report.

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