Addiction

Arizona Stops High School Students' Drug Bill

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Assigned to draft a bill for Linda Brunk’s sixth-hour sociology class, students at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, Arizona, took their exercise seriously.  With the assistance of a prominent state representative, the class of 30 juniors and seniors crafted a seemingly innocuous drug education law that was expected to sail through the Arizona legislature.

Mindful of the growing meth epidemic in Arizona, the students decided to focus their legislation on drugs. The bill they produced would require schools to send letters to student families, and hold a community forum, in the event of three separate incidents of suspension or expulsion involving the same type of drug. But as the Arizona Republic put it, the students learned that “drug use may not be something school officials want widely publicized.” As it turned out, things didn't work out as expected. 

In March, the bill was granted a hearing in Arizona's state legislature, where students were invited to testify on its behalf before a state senate committee. But after both the committee and the full Senate unanimously passed the bill--and then the legislature and the school district began to wonder whether all this publicity about drug use was really a good thing for the community.

Meanwhile, a student YouTube video calling on townspeople to “speak the truth” about drug use in Arizona simply amped up the uproar. “It’s not that we want to bury our heads in the sand,” insists the school’s beleaguered principal, Lauren Sheahan. “But we also don’t want to create drama.” Meanwhile, the bill itself was dying in the House Education Committee, where the chairperson killed the bill over concerns about applying a single standard to all of the state’s school districts.

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“Maybe they’re learning more than they thought they would,” John Kriekard, superintendent of the school district, said of the students involved. Kendal Brownsberger, a 17 year-old junior who helped write the bill, certainly agrees. “I’ve learned about adults and how drama doesn’t stop after high school,” she told the Arizona Republic’s Mary K. Reinhart. “I’ve learned that government is a long process… and at times it can be kind of twisted.”