Students caught with an ounce or less of marijuana are more likely to be arrested in school than a student who starts a fight or steals. Hundreds of teens are arrested each year for drug offenses involving pot—offenses that may warrant only a ticket for adult Chicagoans.
Jesus Velazquez got caught at school with a marijuana pipe in his backpack. What happened next is exactly what shouldn’t take place if a school district’s goal—or, from a larger perspective, a community’s goal—is to get kids who make dumb mistakes back on track. Jesus was suspended for 10 days, referred for an expulsion hearing and sent to a diversion program instead of being expelled. He ended up failing most of his sophomore classes and is now facing a fifth year in high school. Surely this was a case in which a non-punitive response—mandatory drug education or participation in community service—made better sense.