11-Year-Old in Illinois Wins Right To Use CBD Oil At School
It’s a first-of-its-kind case, 11-year-old Ashley Surin has won the right to use medicinal cannabis oil while attending school to control her seizures.
Surin, who lives in Schaumburg, Illinois, was prescribed low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil to control her seizures. However, the applicable law, as written, prevented school healthcare staff from administering the medication.
School administrators at Hanover Highlands Elementary School worried their staff could be taking a legal risk and possibly lose their licenses if they were to administer Ashley’s medicine. The school’s position meant that Surin would have to either not use the medicine at school, or take the school to court.
Darcy Kriha, the district's attorney said in a statement, "We, unfortunately, in some cases, have to abide by state and federal law that contradicts what the school's job is for students and what our obligations are to serve medically fragile and ill students."
The parents decided to go ahead file a suit against Schaumburg School District 54 early this year. The suit, filed in Chicago in early January, claimed that the state’s prohibition of the use of medical cannabis at school violates both the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In an unusual twist, both the parents' and the school district's lawyers worked together to get Ashley back in school as quickly as possible. Kriha claims that she got a call from the district superintendent and the school board president, the morning before the hearing saying that they would work together to do whatever they could to get Ashley back to school. Meanwhile, Illinois’ attorney general agreed not to prosecute school nurses.
The Federal judge in the case found in favor of the Surins and issued an emergency order to allow Ashley to go back to school. Technically, the emergency ruling does not cover other children in the same circumstances, but the Surins' lawyer, Steven Glink, has called the suit "a case of great importance.”
Kriha applauded the Surins "courage”, saying, "They've changed Ashley's life today and they may've also changed the lives for other children for the better."
When Ashley returned to school, says the girl’s father Jim Surin, "there were about a dozen people there to welcome her, everyone from her aids and teachers to the principal and assistant superintendent. They were amazing and super supportive."
“I’m in pinch-me mode,” said Maureen Surin, the girl’s mother. “I’m excited. This is not just going to help her, I hope it’s going to help other kids down the road.”
The medicine used by Surin is mostly cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in cannabis, with a small amount of THC mixed in. The amount of THC is too little to get her daughter high, Surin claims. “This is not a drug, it’s a medicine,” she said. “The law needs to catch up with reality.”
The outcome has encouraged the Surins to continue to work for change in the state’s laws. "I hope that we can help the state change the law to not only let our daughter get the medicine she needs, but that other students will be helped as well," Jim Surin said.