Medical marijuana and K-12 schools
A fever chart of drug violations reported by Colorado public schools would show a gradual decline beginning in 2001-01, a line dropping year by year.But in 2009-10, something changed. The number of drug violations reported on K-12 campuses began to climb. It climbed again in 2010-11.
While nearly every other category of violations reported to state officials has dropped in the past decade, drug offenses veered in the opposite direction.
To find out why, reporters from Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network interviewed scores of school and district officials, health care workers and students across the state:
Part 1: Increase in drug violations on school campuses statewide
- School officials, others cite prevalence of medical marijuana as drug violations spike on K-12 campuses includes a timeline of medical marijuana in Colorado and a video of students discussing marijuana use
- In Carbondale teen: Marijuana “something to do,” a student talks about dealing medical marijuana – and getting caught
- In Denver dad: “Nobody thought about the kids,” a parent whose son was busted with marijuana says students are bombarded with mixed messages
- Search an interactive database to see your school’s history of drug violations over the past four years
- Use an interactive map to find your school and see any medical marijuana facilities located nearby
- Read A closer look at the data to see the statistics behind the findings, with links to original reports
Part 2: Two cities, two approaches to marijuana around schools
- Our main story, A tale of two cities: Colorado Springs, Fort Collins differ on regulating medical marijuana dispensaries around K-12 schools, includes a look at whether communities with bans have seen declines in school drug violations
- In Springs teen: Dispensaries not selling to us, a college student describes how she became a regular marijuana user at her Colorado Springs high school
Part 3: Research disputes students’ claims of marijuana as healthy
- Research shows adverse effects of marijuana on teens as drug abuse among students appears to be rising
- In Teen: Without marijuana, I’d probably be dead, a 17-year-old with a rare disease relies on medical marijuana but can’t get treatment at school
You can also read our coverage of the federal crackdown, including a spreadsheet showing K-12 public schools within 1,200 feet of dispensaries.
Troubling questions about online education
Education News Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network spent 10 months investigating achievement, turnover and oversight at the state’s largest full-time online programs.
The investigation, which came five years after a state audit of online programs blasted the Colorado Department of Education for lax oversight, found little has changed – despite a new law aimed at cracking down on the programs.
Students in the state’s online programs continue to perform far worse than their counterparts on state tests, and their scores actually declined after a year in the online programs. Mobility rates top 50 percent in full-time online schools, meaning many students leave their state funding behind in the virtual programs while they return to brick-and-mortar schools.
The series, which won a Society of Professional Journalists’ first-place award for multimedia presentation:
Part 1: High mobility and funding
- Analysis shows half of students leave online programs within a year but funding stays, with video
- A closer look at the data behind the series
Part 2: Lagging student achievement
Part 3: Lax oversight
Lobato v. State school funding case
In December 2011, a Denver District Court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State school funding lawsuit, finding the state’s spending formula for K-12 schools does not meet constitutional requirements for a “thorough and uniform” school system.
The next step for the case is expected to be review by the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We think it’s a great day for the children of Colorado,” said a jubilant Kathleen Gebhardt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, who was giving a presentation on the lawsuit at the Colorado Association of School Boards convention when she got the news. “We’re calling on the legislature to step up immediately and fix the problem.”
The ruling, which is being appealed by state officials, could mean billions more dollars poured into K-12 schools across the state.