Fairfax County public schools have been known for their zero tolerance policies towards marijuana, expelling or involuntarily transferring students, often following long periods of suspension. The result: students fall behind and never catch up, or worse.
Last year, 15 year-old Nick Stuban committed suicide after being involuntarily transferred to another school. The Washington Post is reporting that suspensions have lasted for weeks, which turned a 65% graduation rate to 12% for kids facing disciplinary hearings.
Fairfax’s zero tolerance police even extended to suspending students who brought their own prescription medication to school. Give me a break.
Now, all that might be changing, if ever so slightly. Waiting time for hearing dates has been reduced, and Fairfax may even adopt the successful diversion program used in Arlington County public schools for first-time marijuana offenders.
Where kids have marijuana use issues, the worst thing school officials can do is cut them off from all community ties, by expulsion or involuntary transfer.
What do these concerned parents and educators expect students to do who are not in school, and have no remaining community ties? Statistics show that most of these students fall hopelessly behind in their academics, and worse, they never catch up.
Many drug warriors see zero tolerance as the answer to substance abuse. They think that is “sends a strong message.” But in reality, zero tolerance completely messes up the lives of the few students unlucky enough to get caught, while having little effect on the vast majority who don’t. Worse, kids caught up in the disciplinary process – whether involved or not – fall behind, failing to finish their classes and often never graduating.