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How should school policies evolve with changing legalities and culture of marijuana?

The punishment leveled on a number of students who allegedly consumed marijuana edibles at a school event is sparking some controversy. (KIRO Radio/file)

Now that pot is legal in Washington, should school penalties regarding marijuana offenses be handled any differently?

Parents at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School are conflicted about a decision made to expel a number of students who allegedly consumed pot edibles at a school function.

Nicholas O’Connell, a parent whose son was asked to leave for a similar offense, wrote a guest blog for The Seattle Times regarding the issue, declaring: “Students should not have been expelled for marijuana at Bishop Blanchet High School.”

He says this incident was an opportunity for the school to be a guide in an era where marijuana and its new legality means new realities for school and community members.

“Rather than simply kicking kids out of school for possessing or using pot, school administrators need to help guide kids through the complexities of the new law and culture,” O’Connell writes. “School officials need to address how to deal with readily available marijuana and why kids, who have still-developing brains, should avoid it.”

By employing a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy, O’Connell argues they missed an opportunity to correct the students, a number of whom reportedly had no prior offenses.

“The administration’s harsh zero-tolerance policy leaves no provision for mercy and no opportunity to provide care and correction for teenagers on the cusp of adulthood.”

KIRO Radio’s Ursula Reutin, who also has two sons at the school, says offenses like these are something schools and parents are having to take a closer look at as pot has become legal in Washington.

“I can tell you that every parent with a high school student and every school dealing with teenagers right now, this is just a bigger issue than ever,” says Ursula. “It’s not just the medibles. It’s the vape pens and everything that is accessible to our kids today – that makes it much too easy and much too tempting.”

Reutin says she understands both sides, that the school may be feeling like it has to put its foot down, but she also understands parents upset with such a serious punishment for a first offense.

Blanchet alum and Tom & Curley Show host Tom Tangney thinks the school may be going a little overboard.

“I think with this kind of mistake, especially in the culture of changing marijuana laws, we should allow for two strikes and you’re out.”

After receiving a negative reaction from a number of parents, O’Donnell says the school might hope this issue just goes away, but says:

“It will not go away. With the new marijuana law recently taking effect in Washington, school administrators at Blanchet and elsewhere will have to navigate the uncharted waters of more easily available marijuana.”

I-502 states that it’s illegal to sell marijuana to anyone under the age of 21.

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