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California DARE Coordinator Steve Abercrombie was not pleased to learn the news that the Los Angeles Unified School District had decriminalized small amounts of marijuana at its schools.
"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?"
The district announced more lenient policies in which school police will no longer report students — or issue them tickets — if they're involved in petty theft, most fights, or possession of alcohol, tobacco or marijuana.
The rule changes resulted from two years of talks between lawyers, judges, school police and civil rights groups who aimed to end LAUSD's zero-tolerance policies.
One goal is to reduce the influence of campus police, softening the rules so that kids who typically get into trouble don't drop out.
At issue, in part, is that black students make up about one-third of school police arrests, yet they make up less than 10 percent of the student population.
This, of course, is not exactly in line with the philosophy of the long-running Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
Abercrombie says it makes more sense to train school police to stop targeting black students than it does to decriminalize weed in schools.
"If it's against the law, it's against the law," he says.
Despite this change, Los Angeles schools are not the most permissive when it comes to this issue. Abercrombie points to Berkeley schools, where most students found with pot are sent to counseling, rather than to the police.
Berkeley Unified School District's Mark Coplan notes that administrators there are concerned about teen marijuana use. But, he adds, Berkeley students have the lowest tobacco use rate in California; apparently parents there condemn cigarettes but look the other way on cannabis.
"I'm surprised they don't hand [cannabis] out when they hand out their workbooks," says Abercrombie, exasperated. "They're so out in space, it's unbelievable."