MONROE, N.C., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- An eighth-grade student in North Carolina was suspended for 55 days for showing another boy a bag of oregano and claiming it was marijuana, his family said.
"It was just a joke," the boy's mother told FoxNews.com. "He's embarrassed that it's turned into such a big issue. He's actually said he doesn't know why he did it. But he didn't have an illegal substance to begin with."
The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group best known for defending the right to religious expression, has taken up the boy's cause. John Whitehead, the institute's president, said the suspension may violate the boy's constitutional rights.
"We want the record cleaned up so this doesn't track him for the rest of his life," Whitehead told FoxNews.com.
Under Union County Public Schools policy, students can be suspended for 10 days for possession of a real or counterfeit drug with an additional 45 days possible if the student's behavior was egregious. Whitehead argues that oregano is clearly not an illegal drug, and the school district does not define counterfeit drugs.