School administrators who suspend children for marijuana violations actually increase the likelihood the kid will use the drug, a new study finds.
The American Journal of Public Health
published a study
this week that startled its own researchers. Those researchers found students attending schools with suspension policies for illicit drug use were 1.6 times more likely to use pot in the next year, compared to their peers at schools who kept kids in class and counseled them about drugs.
"That was surprising to us," stated co-author Richard Catalano, professor of social work and co-founder of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. "It means that suspensions are certainly not having a deterrent effect. It's just the opposite."
The large, longitudinal study looked at 3,264 7th and 9th graders in Washington State and Australia in 2002 and 2003, comparing drug policies at schools to determine how they impacted student marijuana use. Students who got referred to a school counselor — as opposed to suspension — for pot use were 50 percent less likely to use pot.
The studies concluded: “Schools may reduce student marijuana use by delivering abstinence messages, enforcing nonuse policies, and adopting a remedial approach to policy violations rather than use of suspensions.”
As cannabis becomes officially legal for adults, zero tolerance suspension policies need to be revised based on effectiveness, the researchers conclude.