KCSS director: Annual student law violations report not about "What can the schools do?" but rather what happens outside schools; parent role vital...

Bowling Green Daily News, May 6, 2017

Cannabis use remains problem in Kentucky schools

by AARON MUDD

Cannabis use and possession is the top law violation among Kentucky’s students, while alcohol use and possession dropped roughly 26 percent, according to a new report from the Kentucky Center for School Safety.

About 6,000 students committed 6,995 law violations in the 2015-16 school year, according to the center’s School Safety Data Report, which pulls from schools’ Infinite Campus data. Those 6,001 students make up less than 1 percent of the 655,475 students across Kentucky.

But for Jon Akers, the center’s executive director, one law violation is too many.

“Far too often, when you see a report like this, it’s ‘What can the schools do?’ ” Akers said, arguing that that is the wrong approach. “When you’re talking about trying to resolve these issues, that has to happen outside the four walls of the school.”

The rate for marijuana and hashish violations among students is consistent with previous reports from the center, but the center stresses that it’s still a pressing issue among Kentucky’s young people.

Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken often sees the effects of the drug in her work. She responded to a request for comment by email.

“The majority of the effects surround grades and truancy,” she wrote. “When we deal with truancy cases – and failing grades – if a drug test is conducted a majority of the time we see a positive marijuana result.”

Milliken added those effects can linger.

“Due to the failing grades and truancy their futures are absolutely impacted,” she wrote. “I also strongly feel that marijuana is a gateway drug and I sadly see so many young people increase their drug activity and expand their usage to other drugs ... after (starting) with marijuana.”

The report also shows a decline of 26.19 percent in alcohol use and possessions. A previous report showed a 46.80 percent increase in the violation.

Milliken said she hasn’t seen that development reflected in the court system, but added that many cases are outside the school setting and would take the form of other crimes.

“We have seen an increased number in both marijuana and synthetic marijuana use,” she said.

Disorderly conduct violations also increased by roughly 192 percent from the previous report, but this metric may be problematic because some districts did not correctly report incidents of disorderly conduct in the 2014-15 report, according to the center.

Ninth-graders commit the largest number of law violations.

“This key transition year is also reported as troublesome in studies of retention, failed subjects and attendance,” the report states.

Additionally, the report describes the disproportionality of race, special education and socio-economic status among student violators as a concern.

Reported violations in the Bowling Green Independent School District continued declining, falling to 15 violations out of 3,999 students enrolled in the 2015-16 school year. That’s down from 27 violations in the 2014-15 school year.

Reported violations in Warren County Public Schools dropped to 119 in 2015-16 from 169 the previous school year. The district’s total enrollment was 14,563 in 2015-16, according to the report.

For Akers, school officials can’t be the only ones held responsible for lowering the rate of law violations.

“The schools can only do so much when it comes to aggressive law violations,” he said. “It requires first and foremost parental help.”

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