Thursday, January 29, 2009

Schools Stay Strict on Pot

Despite decriminalization, schools keep strict drug possession policies
January 29, 2009
Connie Paige, Boston Globe

Area school superintendents surveyed recently said they have no plans to reverse their zero-tolerance policies concerning students found with drugs.

While school rules put students in a different category than other users in the wake of a new state law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, the superintendents maintain that the rules are for the students' own good.

Nashoba Valley Technical High School Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz pointed out the rules help protect students' health and safety - especially in a school like hers where students often wield heavy and sharp-edged equipment and work with toxic and heated substances.

"The issue of drugs for a student who is high behind a desk in a math class is brutally different than for a student behind a lathe saw," she said. "That presents a clear and obvious danger."

Klimkiewicz said she is taking a lead from Mitchell D. Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education. Chester issued an advisory that the new law does not alter the authority of school officials to impose discipline, including suspension or expulsion, on students who possess 1 ounce of marijuana or less on school property or at school-sponsored or school-related functions. Under the law, the advisory noted, possession is defined as not only holding marijuana but also having it inside one's body.

Tewksbury Superintendent Christine L. McGrath said officials at that town's schools all agreed on maintaining existing rules. She said they are listening to advice from Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.

Leone is among many law enforcement officials - notably Attorney General Martha Coakley, other district attorneys, and police around the state - who have lobbied against the new law.

"We remain focused on continuing to send a clear message to our children that marijuana remains unhealthy, dangerous, and illegal in Massachusetts," Leone said in a statement about the new law, passed by voters at the ballot box in November.

Despite health and safety aims, the school rules can wreak havoc on students' lives, as Groton-Dunstable high schooler Cody Manley recently discovered the hard way. The 16-year-old was suspended for four months and barred from playing interscholastic football after he was caught on school grounds last October with three friends possessing a small amount of pot.

"I think it's unfair," said Manley, whose parents have taken the issue before the Groton-Dunstable School Committee for redress.

Manley was scheduled to return to school on Monday. Now he must receive counseling with a drug and alcohol specialist, submit to monthly drug testing, remain on probation for the rest of the school year, and cannot leave the building while school is in session.

After hearing Manley's case, Groton-Dunstable School Committee chairman Paul G. Funch said he believes that penalties under the marijuana rules can sometimes be too harsh. For example, he said he believes there should be reconsideration of the rule allowing a report of first-time marijuana possession to remain permanently on a student's transcript.

"I think that's really beyond the pale," Funch said. "You should get their attention, but I don't think their lives should be so severely impacted."

But Groton-Dunstable Principal Shelley Marcus Cohen said the policy must be maintained for the students' protection.

"Drugs are not going to be allowed on this campus," she said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flask for Teen Girls

Advocates Call on 'Tween Stores to Stop Selling Flasks

January 27, 2009

Underage drinking advocates are calling on the teen accessory store chain, Icing by Claire's, to stop selling girl-friendly flasks.Flasks decorated with charms and designed to hold 5 ounces of liquor are available for $12.50, and one-shot keychain flasks with room for the individual's initials are available for $8.50 each.The flasks show disclaimers that the product is not meant for minors, and warns that the flasks are designed to carry alcoholic beverages and should not be used for beverages with acidic contents like fruit juices.

Advocates are concerned that Icing by Claire's is encouraging underage drinking by selling flasks, while targeting its products to girls as young as 17. Icing by Claire's is a subsidiary of Claire's, Inc., which operates approximately 3,000 stores throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Recent studies show that girls are drinking earlier and increasing their alcohol intake. For example, the rate of 14-year-old girls using alcohol escalated from one in ten to almost one-third over the last 40 years. "In many cases, the girls are outdrinking the boys, putting themselves at greater risks," said Janet Williams, co-chairman of the Illinois Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, which wrote a letter to parent-company Claire's.

It appears that youth are gravitating towards hard liquor like rum and tequila in an effort to get drunk faster, according to Elizabeth Nelson, a community health specialist at the Lake County Health Department."Anything that promotes the perception that alcohol use is acceptable with young people is really disturbing," Nelson said.

Oregon Partnership announced that Icing by Claire's said it will continue selling the flasks at its 3,000 stores, but will post signs at store counters supporting "responsible" alcohol consumption. -->

Monday, January 26, 2009

Next Meeting

Task Force Meeting February 10 at 12 noon
Burlington's Drug and Alcohol Task Force will hold it's bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, from 12 noon to 1:30pm at the Burlington High School guidance department conference room. We are expecting to be visited by Vincent Piro, Chief of Probation for Woburn District Court and by Jeanine Flaherty, Tobacco-Free Kids. We will be planning for our March parent education collaboration with the Marshall Simonds MIddle School PTO as well as this year's 6th Annual Alcohol-Free Weekend in May. Please join us for a lively discussion--and if you come, we will feed you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Social Host Liability

Mother sent to prison for hosting son's underage drinking party

By Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune (abridged)
January 08, 2009

LAWRENCE — Modesta Brito knew her teenage son was having a party on the night of Nov. 24, 2007. She was aware he and his friends were drinking beer in her home. And she knew they were playing the drinking game quarters, even giving them a plastic cup to bounce the coins into, a prosecutor said.

Allowing the underage drinking party in her Hampshire Street apartment was a risk Brito took. That risk became harsh reality when Ryan Bourque, 17, left the party and was killed in a car crash, prosecutor Jennifer Kunsch said.Brito, a 42-year-old mother of three, will spend the next three months in prison after yesterday admitting to violating the state's Social Host Liability Law and allowing the party in her home.

After Bourque's death, both Brito and her son Edrian Brito Mendez, were charged with violating the state's Social Host Liability Law. It was the first time ever, in Essex County,such alcohol charges were filed against both parent and child.

"You were the responsible adult. You were the one who should have been looking out for your son and the other kids," Judge Thomas Brennan said. "In this case, the consequences were tragic and for that, you bear some responsibility."

Mendez, 18, now a student at Northern Essex Community College, also was charged with two counts of providing alcohol to minors. All of his charges were continued without a finding for a year in a plea agreement reached and approved by Brennan earlier yesterday.Brennan noted that the primary responsibility for supervising the household rested with Modesta Brito as her son was then 17. However, the teen is still "responsible for his actions."

A police investigation revealed that Mendez charged friends $5 to drink beer from a 30-pack he had in a refrigerator in the apartment.Brito was formally sentenced to one year in jail with 90 days to be served and the balance suspended for two years. She also will have to serve 200 hours of community service and pay fines.Mendez must undergo alcohol evaluation and treatment, attend alcohol education programs and perform 100 hours of community service. He also must speak to youth groups about the dangers of alcohol and pay fines.

Speaking generally about underage drinking, Blodgett said he hopes parents understand "there's no gray area. It's a black and white law."