Kentucky public schools, marijuana/hashish use and possession was the number one law violation committed by students on school property in 2015-16.

What’s the No. 1 law violation in Kentucky’s public schools?

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com

In Fayette County and all Kentucky public schools, marijuana/hashish use and possession was the number one law violation committed by students on school property in 2015-16.

In Kentucky, that accounted for 26.45 percent of all law violations. The Kentucky Center for School Safety on May 1 released its 2015-16 School Safety Data Report examining law violations committed by students at Kentucky’s public schools.

The number of marijuana/hashish violations in Fayette County nearly doubled from 2013 to 2016, from 73 to 136. The number of fourth-degree assaults increased as well, from 39 to 73. A person is guilty of assault in the fourth-degree when they “intentionally or wantonly” cause physical injury to another person.

“Clearly, there are children and families in crisis here in Fayette County,” said Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall. She said the school district has been working with several community agencies on a plan to help families before problems occur at school.

“The issues of marijuana possession and distribution do not start in our schools, but we are committed to working with our entire community to find solutions,” Deffendall said.

Kentucky Center for School Safety Executive Director Jon Akers said he thinks marijuana use is increasing because laws have relaxed in other states.

“There’s this feeling that’s waving across our country right now that marijuana is going to be legalized,” said Akers. But he said that’s no reason for underage students to feel entitled to use it on campus.

Deffendall said parents should regularly check jackets, backpacks and pockets for “contraband” and encourage positive student activities and friends. Akers said parents also need to check their kid’s bedroom, their phones and supervise them online on a regular basis.

Akers said if a student is using marijuana or another illegal drugs, the student should see a substance abuse counselor “not just for one quick visit but for a significant amount of time until the underlying problem is discovered.” If mental health intervention doesn’t work, Akers said the court system can provide additional help.

Deffendall said that this past school year, the district instituted tip lines in high schools to encourage anonymous reporting and promote safety.

“While we believe that any increase is unacceptable,” she said. “It is important to remember that this data comes during a time of tremendous growth in our school district, when we are enrolling record numbers of students. Our schools are filled with amazing students accomplishing great things and the number of students who committed these violations represent less than .5 percent of our total student population.”

Statewide, the report shows that less than one percent of the 655,475 public school students in Kentucky committed a law violation at a school in 2015-16.

Other findings in the report included:

▪ Third-degree physical assault, which is assault by a student on a school employee, had dropped from 18 in 2013-14 to 11 in 15-16.

▪ Alcohol use and possession decreased considerably, 26.19 percent, in the 2015-16 report. This violation had increased by 46.8 percent in the previous report.

▪ The largest number of law violations in Kentucky occurs with ninth graders. This key transition year is also reported as troublesome in studies of retention, failed subjects and attendance.

▪ Violations involving a firearm, handgun, or rifle were rare in the 2015-16 school year.

▪ Violations for terroristic threatening may be under-reported. Kentucky Center for School Safety officials are frequently consulted about anonymous threats that have been uncovered. Some anonymous threats that require school administrators to investigate are not captured in the current data.

Akers, in the report, said that school safety is as important as student achievement. “Teachers and students cannot be expected to perform at higher levels when they feel unsafe at school,” he said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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