Seattle Students Profit From Revised Drug Policies

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Seattle drug policies keep kids in school longer.

Seattle school superintendents recently announced some changes in drug policies designed to keep more kids in school while providing better education on the effects of substance misuse. The recent policy changes appear to be working; Seattle Weekly reports a 20 percent decrease in the number of suspensions related to alcohol and drug offenses.

What led to these policy changes? How are these changes positively impacting Seattle schools and kids?

Drug Policies in Seattle Schools

The concept was simple. What if school administrators worked with individual students caught using alcohol or drugs instead of kicking them out? Could helping these kids understand the possible negative consequences of their actions while keeping them in school help improve their chances of getting off drugs and alcohol and graduating?

With the goal of improving behavioral issues and cutting down on the number of kids caught in the school-to-prison path, Seattle area school administrators changed their behaviors as well. The goal was to help kids that were “experimenting” as well as to seek to heal children with substance use disorders. Seattle Weekly called it moving from a more punitive to a restorative approach. Instead of suspensions, the school district would provide students with counseling.

Early Results Are Encouraging

Providing individualized counseling as well as working with the behavioral health community’s excellent treatment programs, while still keeping kids in school, completely changed everything. A growing body of clinical research shows that exclusionary disciplinary tactics do more harm than good, causing kids to drop out, move out to the streets and often wind up in jail or worse.

Suspending a child means that they quickly fall behind in their studies and sometimes cannot catch back up before becoming disenchanted with the entire system. Seattle’s new policies mirrored a national trend that showed more individualized, less rigid disciplinary standards helped kids improve, kept them in school and decrease the chances of them going to prison.

Today, the Student’s Rights and Responsibilities Handbook prohibits drugs and alcohol on campus but has removed the rigid disciplinary action from long-term suspensions. Instead, the school districts trained staff in new drug policies that helped them respond by treating substance misuse while providing counseling and support.

The result is that the new drug policies decreased suspensions by 29 percent during the school year. In the first academic quarter of the school year after the policy change, suspensions went down by 20 percent. One school administrator said:

“If you’re behind in math because you’re smoking a lot of weed and then we tell you that you can’t go to math for two weeks, that doesn’t help. What helps is to have the students in the school where they can be supported and engaged in a positive community so we can keep them healthy and safe.”

While this is one approach for keeping kids on track, they may need additional help. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, a team of professionals can design an individualized treatment plan to address substance use and co-occurring disorders. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn more about admissions and which program could work for you or your adult child. In addition to local programs for adults in Ridgefield, Washington, teen programs are available at Next Generation Village in Sebring, Florida.