District 51 sees rise in drug related expulsions, authorities say teen marijuana use community problem

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The number of District 51 students being expelled for drug related incidents is on the rise. And authorities say that's just a snap shot of the much larger problem of teens using marijuana.

At the end of another, a bright spot for School District 51 -- overall, the number of students expelled was down significantly from last year.

But a closer look at the figures brings troubling news -- the number of students expelled for drug related incidents shot up from 24 in the 2008-2009 school year to 34 in the 2009-2010 school year. It was the only category that saw an increase.

"Whatever is happening in our community is going to roll over into our schools," said Tim Leon, Safety Coordinator for School District 51.

Leon says although the district does not track what types of drugs are getting students into trouble, he believes the main culprit this year was marijuana.

"It's readily available in our community," said Leon. "So the easier it is for [students] to get, the sooner they're going to get involved in it."

Something that Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger says has caught his attention.

"There is no question that a lot more kids are getting regular access to marijuana," said Hautzinger. "And I think there's zero question what's causing it. It's coming from the explosion of medical marijuana in our community."

He says in the past six to nine months -- roughly the same time frame dispensaries began popping up in the valley -- there's been a dramatic increase in the number of juvenile pot related cases coming through his office. While he's not insinuating that the dispensaries are selling to students, he says their increased presence and lack of regulation surrounding them are giving teens easier access to marijuana.

"These aren't people who have medical marijuana cards, they're people who are getting ticketed by the police," said Hautzinger.

A major concern, he says, when it comes to the future well being of the community.

"It is a gateway drug," said Hautzinger. "Most of the meth addicts we're dealing with now started with pot."

School officials say it's for that reason, they try to intervene as early as possible -- suspending students for their first offense in most cases and taking other steps to make sure their message about drugs in school is clear.

"It's an absolute zero tolerance," said Leon.

And it seems to be having an effect. Of the 146 related incidents reported at high schools and middle schools this year, less than 25 percent resulted in expulsions.

"We see more suspensions, which tells me we're doing a better job of detecting kids under the influence and reacting to that," said Leon. "But we're not seeing a lot of repeat offenders."

But the district says there's more it can do and more it will do so next year's numbers tell a different story.

"That's always going to be our focus," said Leon.

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  • by some guy on Jun 4, 2010 at 09:12 AM
    the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana is inevitable. the older generations that are opposed to a persons right to medicate with a 100% all natural plant are dying off! they say there are over 400 chemicals in marijuana but they fail to mention that these chemicals are naturally produced by the plant and are not man made chemicals. widespread education of the general public is the best way to get this accomplished. most people that are opposed to marijuana legalization think that marijuana is harmful or dangerous but they just don't know how. research the facts on marijuana and you will see the lies our own government has told us. ignorance is no excuse to destroy and disrupt the lives of others. marijuana offenders are given more time in jail than a child molester... how is this possible? a convicted child molester can legally reside near a school in grand junction but you had better not try to open a pot shop. hahaha. is mesa county too lenient on sexual offenders????
  • by Jimmy Location: Grand Junction on Jun 3, 2010 at 02:15 PM
    Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and inhalants such as glue, gasoline and dusters are the easily available, easily obtainable and, for the most part, legally available substances that serve as "gateway drugs" for young people to try. Parents' medicines are also a source for those who want to try to get high. Marijuana is the whipping boy of the anti-drug finger pointers because it is very available, relatively inexpensive and comparatively safe. The first drug death I knew of was an aunt who ODed on prescription tranquilizers and the next was a sixth grade classmate who died from cough syrup and inhaling cooking oil spray. The real gateway is the desire of the individual to "escape" the reality of their situation, and they will utilize anything they can to do so. I know, I speak from personal experience. Marijuana was over six steps through the gateway when I encountered it, after the substances I mentioned in the opening of my comment. Cannabis has killed no one I personally know and won't.
  • by Joe Location: G.J. on Jun 3, 2010 at 09:05 AM
    How come our school "officials" know how many students were suspended for drug related offenses but dont know which Drugs were used by the students? Maybe WE need to find out exactly what OUR tax dollars are going on this "WAR ON DRUGS" and maybe EDUCATE people about Cannabis instead of WASTE the money on salaries of these "Educators and Regulators" who are supposed to be protecting US !!
  • by Linda Location: GJ on Jun 3, 2010 at 08:42 AM
    I'm visiting your fair city and was shocked by the sensationalistic nonsense of this story. I must agree with much of what has already been said. This is certainly not new. But how disappointing that your DA has nothing better to do than to malign legally operating businesses and their patients with unsubstantiated accusations like "It's coming from the explosion of medical marijuana in our community." So he's blaming this "explosion" and at the same time saying he can't do his job in preventing illegal activity. Hmmm, must be running for re-election.
  • by Joe Location: Grand Junction on Jun 3, 2010 at 07:05 AM
    Here we go again with the "Reefer Madness" mentality , The reason kids are getting marijuana easily is because it is illegal!! If it were regulated and dispensed legally it would be harder to gain access to. I grew up in this valley and when i was in high school in the 80's - (yes i'm old!) marijuana was the easiest "drug" to obtain. Why? Because drug dealers dont care who is buying their product- as long as they got the money! This mentality that marijuana is the cause of all evil,crime, and destruction just goes to show you how uneducated people , and government really are? You cant blame marijuana- or rather medical marijuana for the drug abuse in society among teens. It's called parenting , maybe that doesn't happen much anymore but if parents can't or won't take responsibility for their children , maybe they should't be parents!! As for the "harmful" effects of marijuana ? The death toll for MJ still stands at ZER0 ! what about alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs?
  • by Ray Location: Grand Junction on Jun 3, 2010 at 06:21 AM
    It is time to see what is really going-on. The "dangerous pathway" is through tobacco and alcohol...This has been proven over and over - Kids who do what kids do! And to FOCUS on Marihuana because it is easy. and not look at the real problem. The ones who have no interest in "pot" but want to get "wasted" on something is where we need to put our limited resources...I have no interest in smoking anything but I do not want our officials to lie to us...
  • by Chelsea Location: GJ on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:36 PM
    kids have always had access to marijuana. as well as alcohol, prescription drugs, and the more dangerous narcotics. that isn't going to change anytime soon. if they want something, they will find it one way or another. my question for everyone is, given that alcohol is proven to destroy families and lives by the thousands, why is it so widely defended and supported? if politicians actually cared about the people the truth about marijuana would have come out long ago.Pete Hautzinger has no right accusing legally operating businesses and patients of supplying these kids. there are far too many possible sources to begin finger pointing. I wonder who supplied Mr. Hautzingers kids with the booze they were drinking and supplying to other children? how much was from his very own liquor cabinet? it really hurts to see an illegal immigrant guilty of molesting 3 little girls get sent back to Mexico as a "punishment". that was a sad sad day for Americans. research the facts and learn the TRUTH!
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