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Illinois Teacher Files Discrimination Complaint After Being Bullied for Pot Use
news  |  Dec 10, 2019

Illinois Teacher Files Discrimination Complaint After Being Bullied for Pot Use

A special education instructor in Romeoville, Illinois says that administrators and coworkers have used her MMJ patient status as a sticking point for bullying and harassment.

A special education instructor in Romeoville, Illinois says that administrators and coworkers have used her MMJ patient status as a sticking point for bullying and harassment.

When we discuss problems of bullying and harassment at public schools in America, we are usually focused on the relationship among students. But what does bullying among educators look like? 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, that’s what is happening in Romeoville, Illinois, where a special education instructor has filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) against her coworkers, alleging that she has faced harassment due to her status as a medical marijuana patient.

“I feel that I am being judged,” the teacher, who has decided to remain anonymous, wrote in the IDHR charge. “I feel embarrassed, violated, confused, and heartbroken and betrayed by my own colleagues. I have seen my therapist more than I ever have. My panic attacks have increased.”

The unpleasantness began last year, when the 48-year-old instructor said that school administrators called her into a meeting and said that multiple staffers had complained that the teacher smelled like cannabis. At that point, the educator said that she admitted to being a medical marijuana patient, but was adamant that she did not use cannabis at or before work.

In the weeks and months that followed, the special education teacher said that coworkers would stop her in the halls and ask invasive questions like, “You smoke weed?” and, “What do you use and why?” Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois since 2014, and adult-use pot sales are slated to start next month, but the Romeoville educator said that weed’s stigma was alive and well at her workplace.

To try and remove the discrepancies between state cannabis law and the often irrational will of employers, Illinois State Representative Bob Morgan has said that he plans to introduce a bill that would prevent jobs from firing workers for legal, off-the-clock cannabis use. Rep. Morgan told the Sun-Times that he has received a number of calls from teachers who are “struggling to find the balance of using the medical cannabis they are allowed to use while protecting themselves and their jobs.”

The unnamed teacher has not yet resolved the formal IDHR complaint, and told the Sun-Times that she continually faces a “hostile work environment,” fears “losing a dream job,” and has considered filing a lawsuit over the continued harassment. 

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter

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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.

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