Reuters 25 March 2015
Schools that use suspension to punish drug use, or that weakly enforce any of their drug policies, have higher rates of student marijuana use than schools with more consistent and less-punitive approaches, according to a new study.
The researchers used two waves of surveys of more than 3,000 students in grades seven and nine and more than 100 of their school administrators, half in Washington State and half in Australia. In 2002, the students and administrators reported on their school drug policies. In 2003, the students reported their own drug use.
In Australia, 25 percent of school administrators said they would call the police in response to illicit drug use in the school and 56 percent said the student would receive out-of-school suspension, compared to 60 percent of Washington administrators who would call police and 78 percent who would use suspension.
About 40 percent of students in both locations cited suspension as an optional penalty for violating their school drug policy.
The researchers found that calling the police, expulsion and referral to a nurse or counselor were not associated with the likelihood of marijuana use among students.
But out-of-school suspension policies and weak policy enforcement were tied to increased odds of marijuana use, according to the results in the American Journal of Public Health.
Underage marijuana use can lead to later dependence and is associated with a variety of health and behavioral problems such as memory deficits, psychosis, decreased levels of motivation, school non-completion, driving accidents and unsafe sexual practices, Evans-Whipp said.
Students who said their school policies included “abstinence education” about avoiding illicit drugs altogether, or whose schools counseled violators about the dangers of drug use were almost 50 percent less likely than others to use marijuana in the following year.