Pot's the top reason for expulsions, but number of students kicked out for drugs going down
For the first time, the Colorado Department of Education has broken out marijuana from student expulsion figures related to drugs -- and during the most recent school year, pot was by far the leading reason for pupils being expelled.
This information is concerning to two experts with whom we communicated -- but figures pertaining to suspensions and expulsions over the past decade show that while the overall trend is rising, the numbers have actually dropped the past couple of years.
Earlier this week, outlets such as 7News reported that of the 720 kids removed from Colorado public schools during the 2012-2013 school year, 230 of them, or 32 percent, were sent packing due to marijuana use. That number is said to be than double the total for the next highest reason for expulsion, detrimental behavior, and triple that for all other drugs, as well as disobedience and violations related to alcohol or weapons.
Now, however, Janelle Krueger, the program manager with the CDE's Expelled and At-Risk Student Services Grant in the CDE's Office of Dropout Prevention and Engagement, has assembled a new spreadsheet looking at Colorado public schools suspension and expulsion actions for drugs in general over a twelve-year period, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. The complete document is below, but the following graphic lists the number of drug-related suspensions for 2012-2013 at 4,319 and expulsions at 614.
The 2012-2013 totals are big, no doubt -- but the drug-related suspension number is actually lower than the one in each of the two previous years, while the expulsion figure hasn't been this low since the 2008-2009 school year.
Nonetheless, the marijuana info is undeniably the big attention-getter in the latest data. According to Krueger, corresponding via e-mail, her program is required to issue an evaluation report to the state legislature, and "we separated out marijuana as a reason for the first time for the 2012-13 school year from the larger drug category because of hearing from numerous sources that marijuana-related incidents were on the rise. This would provide us with a subset of data specific to marijuana."
Unfortunately, comparing the 2012-2013 marijuana findings to prior years "is not possible," Krueger points out, because "the data does not exist." For that reason, we don't know if the latest marijuana numbers are going up or down. But there's no question that suspensions and expulsions for drugs went up in a noticeable way during the 2009-2010 school year, which roughly coincided with the medical marijuana boom in Colorado. Here's another graphic showing that trend.
Given the timing, it's reasonable to assume that increased accessibility to marijuana was a big factor in this change. And while the numbers appear to be moderating, Krueger remains very concerned about them.
Continue for more about marijuana and expulsions in Colorado schools, including a video and an original document.