RPS considers easing up school marijuana policy - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

RPS considers easing up school marijuana policy

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The Richmond School Board is debating whether to ease up on its marijuana policy. Richmond Public School students caught with weed in school for the first time may soon face a lighter punishment. Currently, those kids would automatically be recommended for expulsion. Now, the Richmond School Board is rethinking that policy.

Virginia has had a zero-tolerance policy across the state for weed in school. Students who are caught with marijuana must go before the district's school board, for possible expulsion. The process for a student to go before the board can take them out of class for weeks.

"There are times when students are sitting there waiting to hear their appeal for two and three months," said Richmond School Board member Kristen Larson. Larson also sits on the district's discipline committee.

A student may not even get expelled. In 2013, the Richmond School Board only kicked out 10 students, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Ninety-two RPS students who were put on track to expulsion for marijuana or similar types of drugs, were ultimately given suspensions.

The Richmond School Board is now considering giving first-time weed offenders a 10-day suspension and mandatory drug counseling.

"We needed to do something more intervention-like, as opposed to a punitive ‘you can't be in school for 365 days,'" continued Larson.

Advocates of the policy change, like Lisa Bennett with Just Children, within the Legal Aid and Justice Center, say scaling back the zero-tolerance policy is becoming a nationwide trend.

"The current wave to give school boards and their staffs more discretion about whether kids really need to be out of school," said Bennett.

We asked our NBC 12 Facebook followers if they agree on lightening up the punishment. Most who posted were in favor, but one viewer wrote, "We need kids to be accountable for their actions."

Ultimately, Richmond School Board members say they want to do what's best for the children.

"Being up for expulsion, for your first offense, especially when it wasn't a huge harm to the rest of the student body... We felt like we needed to pull back on that," explained Larson.

The Richmond School Board will vote on the marijuana policy change on June 30th.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation this session to change the laws, allowing school districts across the state to scale back their zero-tolerance marijuana policy, if they choose to.

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