Drug Data May Shock Suburbs 

Drug Data May Shock Suburbs 
Posted by FoM on March 26, 2000 at 08:06:05 PT
By Lynn Bartels, DRM News Capitol Bureau
Source: InsideDenver
Jeffco schools report 175 substance-related expulsions for last year; Denver district had 12.Drugs, weapons, playground fights -- it's all going to be in your child's school report card.And parents in Jefferson County may be the ones most surprised.
Jefferson County schools last year had 33 percent more students than Denver Public Schools but 67 percent more suspensions for drug incidents.And the expulsion rate for drugs is even more shocking: 175 incidents in the Jefferson County School District last year compared to 12 in the Denver district."Wow," said Deputy Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County sheriff. "I don't know if there's more tolerance in other schools, but there's no doubt that drugs are out there."The data are the latest eye-opener in Gov. Bill Owens' controversial plan to issue report cards to all Colorado public schools."Does one school have more suspensions and expulsions because it has a bigger drug problem or does it have more because of the way the district handles things?" said Rick O'Donnell, the governor's chief policy director."Those are the questions we want parents to ask. We want them to ask, "What is going on in my school and why?"'Jefferson County says one reason it has such high numbers is an extremely tough drug policy that last year began targeting both givers and receivers of drugs. Previously, the school would bust a student caught giving drugs or alcohol to another student, but not the pupil on the receiving end, district spokesman Rick Kaufman said.Information on suspensions and expulsions already is available to parents of 708,109 students in Colorado's 176 public school districts."But they usually don't ask for it," said Tustin Amole, spokeswoman for Cherry Creek School District. "If they haven't asked for it, it's not something they're overly concerned about."That said, we welcome the opportunity to put it in a report card so parents can see all that information. We have no problem with that whatsoever."The report cards are part of Senate Bill 186, which would require the state to give each school a letter grade based on its performance in the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. Schools also will be graded on their progress after the first year's report card.The report card also will list teacher-student ratios, attendance, dropout rates and safety issues.The Colorado Department of Education annually reports the numbers of suspensions and expulsions, which are listed in four categories: drugs, including alcohol; weapons, including guns and knives; behavioral, including fighting or throwing spitballs; and "other," which involves infractions set by district policy.Last year, school districts reported 5,195 drug-related suspensions and 625 expulsions. In some cases, a student may have been suspended up to three times.Jefferson County and Denver are the two largest districts in the state.Last year, Denver expelled nine high school students and three middle or junior high school students for drug-related incidents.That number is low, district spokeswoman Amy Hudson said, because Denver usually expels students only if they are caught dealing.Students caught with drugs or found to be under the influence would be suspended anywhere from one to 15 days, but the district works with various agencies to get treatment for the students and, in some cases, their families, she said. Denver stresses intervention although it has what she considers to be a tough anti-drug policy.Jefferson County expelled 10 elementary, 50 middle school and 115 high school students last year for drug reasons.The number jumped from the previous school year because of the change in its so-called exchange policy, Kaufman said."Exchange means passing or transferring drugs or alcohol to another person for any purpose, even if the students are not using the drugs or alcohol," he said.Anyone caught dealing drugs is expelled automatically.In addition, Jefferson County also suspends students caught with any sort of drug paraphernalia, such as a drug pipe, even if no drugs were found, he said.The district stresses treatment and counseling for students with substance abuse problems, he added.Owens and his staff believe parents will have an easier time tracking those kinds of issues once they start receiving report cards."I think many suburban parents will be stunned at the substance abuse problems in their schools," O'Donnell said. "Everybody seems to think the problems are in the inner cities."Complete Statistics: March 26, 2000  Copyright, Denver Publishing Co.Related Articles:Parents Condemn Drug Busts Oprah Winfrey - Drugs in School
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