Richmond Schools Considering Lesser Charges for First-Time Drug Offenses

Richmond Public Schools are considering a second chance for first time drug offenders. But some argue it sends kids the wrong message.

A student that is caught on Richmond Public Schools property with any type of drug will be automatically recommended to be expelled for 365 days.

Richmond School Board member Kristen Larson and her colleagues say kids need a second chance and are considering a change to the code. Instead of automatic recommendation for expulsion, students could be suspended for 10 days and have to get counseling.

“Education and awareness for our students is going to go a lot further than expelling them for an entire year and putting them out on the streets,” Larsen says.

Dr. Jim May with the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority says research proves that more and more high schoolers are experimenting with drugs

“If you just think about what the likelihood is of the types of behavior someone is going to engage in out on the streets, once they’ve been kicked out of school or expelled from school, you don’t have a lot of positive things come to mind.”

But that doesn’t mean their future should be ruined because of one bad mistake.

“They are kids. They are youth,” May says.

Data from the Virginia Department of Education for the 2012-2013 school year shows 96 students in Richmond were suspended or expelled for having drugs on school property. There were 181 students in Chesterfield and 81 in Henrico.

“Very young kids are being referred to the court, and we know, once you are involved in the juvenile justice system…that often time that continues,” says Lisa Bennett , Just Children Program / Legal Aid Justice Center.

The School Board will vote on the changes on June 30.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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