We've previously noted that the Los Angeles Unified School District is trying to get students back into the seats of their schools by the tried-and-true method of not tossing them out in the first place and having them arrested or cited by police for misbehavior and trying to scale back on some outrageous "zero tolerance" responses.
The school district recently announced it was expanding its discipline changes and will refer kids who are caught for minor crimes to be referred to counseling and discipline rather than arrest or citations. The offenses that will be treated this way include fighting, alcohol and tobacco possession, and low level petty theft or vandalism. Oh, and also, possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer result in student arrest.
That news perked up the ears of the "Toke of the Town" blog at LA Weekly, who got in touch with Steve Abercrombie, California coordinator of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). He was not pleased:
"Wow," he tells Toke of the Town. "It seems we keep giving in more and more to different crimes and criminal activity. When does it stop? When do you finally say that you need to follow the rules?"
As typical, we can ponder the circular logic of the drug war argument. "We have declared this behavior to be illegal. If we allow kids to do it, they'll be breaking 'the rules' that we have declared. Therefore they are criminals," without ever questioning whether or not the designation that the behavior is illegal was a problem in the first place.
But then, DARE's placement in the drug war has been dependent on reinforcing the need for a police presence in school systems. And schools have been cutting DARE costs out of their budgets. So Abercrombie's complaining is coming from a place of decreasing influence on school funds, not just education. He adds, "I'm surprised they don't hand [cannabis] out when they hand out their workbooks."
That might be a good way to fight truancy. They should think about it.