In the spring of 2005, our then seventh grade daughter was in a class where a student talked of "sniffing markers." Some of the kids began to pass a marker around and when it got to my daughter, she smelled at it once (didn't "huff" it), then left it alone. Later in the day, she was in percussion class and hurt her hand when another student whacked it with a drumstick.
She went to the nurse and the nurse, who had heard about the marker incident when the students involved got in trouble with the teacher, asked our daughter if she had been involved at all. Our daughter, who is very honest, said she had been here and smelled it once. The nurse then contacted the principal who then contacted my wife to ask her if we would give permission for a police office to perform a "field sobriety test." My wife, shocked by the principal's version of the events, okayed the principal's request (big mistake!) and an officer from a local municipality came to the school, administered the test, and concluded my daughter was "high" on markers. Mind you, even if she HAD been high earlier (which she wasn't) the effects would have worn off long before this supposed "sobriety test."
We met with the principal, asst. principal, and counselor and my wife and I were prepared to discuss consequences for our daughter. Although we believed she was innocently swept up in a peer pressure situation, we wanted her to understand the seriousness of it with some sort of punishment. Although we were led to believe there would be a discussion about her punishment, the principal said under the district's "zero tolerance" policy she would by required to serve nine weeks at the district's alternative education campus (located at the high school). The real kicker was that the kids passing the markers around didn't serve a single day because his parents had refused to allow the police officer to perform the "sobriety test" on their son.
So what did "zero tolerance" teach my daughter? Don't tell the truth when asked a question about something that might lead to big trouble... and certainly don't cooperate with the police! My wife and I fought this by writing a letter to the asst. superintendent (that was the next step, according to the principal) and we met with him in person. He agreed to reduce her stay at the alternative campus to three weeks, but that was the best we got from them.