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Editorial: Deterring kids from drug use

With drug and alcohol use rampant among young people in Laguna Beach, the Board of Education made a difficult but wise move in meting out some mandatory punishment for those who are caught, i.e. arrested, with illegal drugs, prescription drugs without a prescription, or drinking alcohol on school grounds or while on “school time" "” at activities or during the lunch hour.

The board took action this month after county-wide student surveys about drug and alcohol use put Laguna kids in the top tier of offenders year after year. Either Laguna kids are indulging in more intoxicant use, or they are a lot more honest than other kids. We suspect it’s the former, not the latter, and that to a lot of kids, it’s just not a big deal. That idea needs to change.

To try to discourage this behavior and make it very clear that the district is serious about keeping kids sober, the board imposed a mandatory 20-day exclusion from extra-curricular activities for kids who are suspended for intoxicant use.

The three- to five-day school suspension requirement has been in place for years, but kids consider it a joke. To take a kid out of school "” a forced “vacation" "” as a punishment does seem ineffective. A lot of these kids aren’t happy in school and that’s why they use intoxicants in the first place. But taking away their sports or theater activities "” their fun time "” is a much better way to get the point across.

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It wasn’t easy for the board to make this decision because for many kids having a part in the school play or being a star on the football field may be the best experience they have at school. There are also legal ramifications because some activities, sports in particular, can lead to lucrative careers that could be derailed by a suspension.

For their part, the district staff wanted students and their coaches or teachers to draw up individual contracts outlining the punishment based on specific situations.

But the board would have none of that, deciding that a mandatory 20-day extra-curricular suspension filled the bill. Ironically, it was students themselves who were asking for a harsher punishment, both as a deterrent and to safeguard their own extra-curricular activities. In this case, the students may have known best.



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