Drug Policy on Campus

Administration talks about the current protocol regarding drugs

Jennifer Fong

Staff Writer

    As illegal substances, such as marijuana, become more common in the high school scene, California has set certain procedures in place to address the spread of drugs on school campuses. Despite all high schools in California having standardized drug protocols, some school have a more incidents than others.

    Of the staff at American, assistant principal, Amanda Melsby is very involved in the process. Since students are under the jurisdiction of the school, when drug incidents occur at American, Ms. Melsby collaborates with the Fremont Police Department to call in students, question them, and get statements to ensure the accuracy of the drug report.

    “If there are drugs on campus, it automatically jumps up to police report status,” Melsby said. “It doesn’t have to be over a certain amount – anything you have – it automatically involves police. You’d get a five-day suspension from school and, depending on the amount, it can bump up in severity.”

    Concerning the Fremont Police’s involvement in the investigation, on-campus police officer Reggie Candler has much to say about the process. Despite of only working at American’s campus this year, Candler is an experienced police officer and has dealt with situations like these in the past.

    “I talk to [students accused of having drugs], figure out where they got it from, [and] find out what it is from them,” Officer Reggie Candler said. “And I handle what’s called a ‘notice to appear’ citation – which is like you’ve been arrested, but you’ve been given a ticket with a court date.”

    Especially concerning minors, there are a few changes, such as contacting a guardian and recording the information of an underage first time offender, to address the fact that students do not have the same rights as adults.

    “At times, I might take them [to the Fremont police station] just to get photographs and fingerprinting at our jail, which is for somebody who’s a repeat offender, for someone who constantly has drugs or is known to have drugs,” Candler said. “Mainly just for the police department to have a record of what they look like because when juveniles get arrested, there’s no pictures or fingerprints. So I issue a citation, and we’ll get into contact with juvenile probation.”

    The main drug found in high school campuses is marijuana, and it has been a problem in schools for decades. As an easily obtainable drug, it is often the first type of illegal substance students encounter, so many high schools have to handle many first-time users.

    “Marijuana is rampant at this school, but it’s been rampant in high schools for generations,” Candler said. “Marijuana is a drug that’s not going away – they call it the gateway drug for a reason. That being said, we can’t tolerate it. If kids are at school, while high, they can’t stay here. They get sent home, suspended. If you have it on you, you can’t have it here. You’ll get arrested; that’s a big thing.”

    As it stands, the policy for drugs on campus has been loosening in the past few years. Possession is becoming more common and, with juvenile halls and jails filling up, the criminal housing system cannot handle more inmates for comparatively minor crimes.

    “Personally, I think [the drug policy] should be harsher, but I understand why it’s not,” Candler said. “In our county, many things that were considered felonies are now considered misdemeanors, like possession of methamphetamines was once a felony. Now, just possessing it is a misdemeanor. That’s mainly because it’s become so rampant. With these lighter penalties, it’s not gonna make the situation easier. Yes, it’s less work for us, but the problem out there is gonna grow, because there is no incentive to stop. People are becoming more accepting of it.”

    The spread of marijuana usage has become more obvious since modern technology made communication easier and more anonymous.

    “I think, because of social media, drug use is more blatant, but that doesn’t mean actual use is going up,” Melsby said. “Sometimes things are more accessible because of social media, so I don’t know if the trend has been on the upswing or in the decline. I believe it is just more noticeable now.”

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