Weeding out the pot problem | AspenTimes.com

Weeding out the pot problem

Aspen High School suspended an unidentified student this week after he confessed to possession of marijuana, renewing attention on a common topic of community interest – drug use among local youths.This was the second time students have been suspended for drug-related offenses, said Aspen High School Principal Charlie Anastas.Recent incidents on school buses have highlighted the issue, as several high school students have been suspended for smoking or possessing marijuana on school property.On Feb. 2, for example, a high school student riding on a bus to Snowmass Village reportedly was carrying “skunk weed” – a baggie of highly potent marijuana that Anastas reported was also “very odorous.””It was noticeable when he got on the bus,” Anastas wrote in an e-mail to The Aspen Times, but “it was never smoked” on the bus, although the student apparently “showed it off” to another student.The bus driver reportedly heard about it, stopped his bus and walked down the aisle but found nothing amiss, Anastas said.It was not until Monday, when Anastas called the youth into his office that the student confessed. He was suspended for an undisclosed length of time, as well as banned from the school bus for two weeks. Other students who sat nearby on the bus were interviewed, Anastas wrote, and their accounts verified the story.Anastas also confirmed that “last semester there was an incident where two students smoked pot on the bus – they reportedly took a ‘couple of puffs.’ No drugs were found on them; however, they confessed and were suspended.”These have been the only incidents this school year of students using a controlled substance on school property,” the principal continued, adding that “since this is the second occurrence, we will be discussing this at our next assembly.”Normally, Anastas said, assemblies are not used to “discuss issues with drugs or alcohol, other than the ones before prom or homecoming.”To discourage drug and alcohol use, he continued, “We depend on our advocacy and mentorship groups, health classes and other classes that have a life-skill focus, such as those underwritten by the Valley Partnership [for Drug Prevention]; Heroes, Peer Support and Senior Seminar, to inform our students on substance use/abuse and other health related issues.”Superintendent Diana Sirko said discipline in such cases is left up to the building administrators, in this case Anastas and vice principal Brad Bates, and added, “I think Charlie has been very agressive … in sending a clear message about our lack of tolerance for drug use.” The Aspen Police Department’s longtime school resource officer, Brad Onsgard, said Thursday it is rare that cases of student drug use rise to the level where criminal charges are filed, but “it has happened.” Onsgard works with a fellow resource officer, Dan Glidden, providing a relatively constant police presence at the public schools campus.In most cases, Onsgard said, “The idea is to educate the kids and parents about it first,” unless it involves dealing or other issues that warrant criminal charges.That’s because, where adults convicted of possession of small amounts of pot are subject to relatively small fines, Onsgard said, while youthful offenders “can end up in the juvenile justice system for maybe two years,” depending on the seriousness of the offense.Pitkin County’s juvenile justice officer, Bruce Benjamin, said he was notified of the incident last week but that no official action has yet been taken, although he said the case remains “under investigation.”Regarding law enforcement’s relations with the Aspen School District, Benjamin said, “Generally, the communication has been excellent between law enforcement and the school district.” John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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