Pot expulsions up in District 51 schools

Fewer students kicked out of school overall, but more related to marijuana possession

While total expulsions are down, marijuana-related expulsions are on the rise in School District 51.

As of April 30, the district had expelled 55 students, down from 74 between August 2008 and April 2009.

Drug-related expulsions were the most common type both years, with 34 this year and 24 last year. As of April 30 last year, 18 expulsions dealt with marijuana. As of April 30 this year, 30 expulsions have been marijuana-related.

Superintendent Steve Schultz presented the numbers at a May 25 school board meeting and told the board he is concerned about the increase. Schultz said marijuana has become more prevalent, not just among school-age youth, but all age groups in Mesa County.

“It is a community problem,” he said.

District 51 Safety Coordinator Tim Leon agreed, saying he’s noticed more marijuana-related arrests in local police reports.

“Whatever’s happening in the community is going to trickle down into our schools,” he said.

“It’s like alcohol. If it’s in the home, they’re going to be curious about it.”

Leon said he does not think the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries in Grand Junction has anything to do with a spike in marijuana-related expulsions.

Students bringing “hard” drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, to school is rare, mostly because those drugs are often out of a student’s price range, Leon said. Leon said he also has heard from many students that meth is getting a reputation as a “scary” drug due to anti-drug advertising campaigns. Aside from these campaigns, students are exposed to anti-drug education through health classes beginning in middle school.

Marijuana-related expulsions represent a student’s second offense with marijuana. Leon said the instances of first-time offenders repeating their actions and getting expelled have decreased since last year.

Mesa County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ani Wood, a school resource officer at Central High School, said the increase in marijuana-related expulsions could have something to do with better detection among adults. Staff training on detecting drugs and drug use has improved in recent years, she said through Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Lisa McCammon.

Wood handed out 21 tickets for marijuana-related offenses during the 2009–10 school year, compared to 14 in 2008–09. Wood said more individuals received tickets this year. The previous year, tickets were more commonly handed out to groups of students.

Expulsions in every other category except for “other violations,” which rose from one to five, decreased this year. As of April 30, the district had expelled one student for repeated interference with classroom operations, compared with expelling seven students for such an offense between August 2008 and April 2009.

The district did not expel any students as of April this year for tobacco, felony assault, robbery, other felonies, willful disobedience, detrimental behavior, or destruction or defacement of school property. One student was expelled for alcohol, and 14 students were expelled for having dangerous weapons.


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