(Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)

Western Colorado school district sees drop in pot-related expulsions

GRAND JUNCTION — School officials in Grand Junction are crediting counseling and a campus security officer with decreasing expulsions for students caught with marijuana.

There were 32 drug-related expulsions last academic year compared to 59 in 2013-2014 and School District 51 officials say a program called Pathways contributed to the drop, the Daily Sentinel reported.

The program gives first-time offenders the opportunity to spend their five-day suspension learning about health effects of drug abuse. About 4 percent of the 150 kids who enrolled in the program dropped out in favor of at-home suspensions.

District 51 Prevention Coordinator Cathy Haller says eight of the students who completed pathways committed a second offense, which does result in expulsion.

“We had multiple repeaters always in years past,” she said.

She says the district encouraged students to enroll in pathways by offering transportation and letting them know that the program is about education rather than punishment.

“They weren’t really excited going in but (the facilitators) engaged them and weren’t punitive, so after the first day they stuck it out. They didn’t feel judged,” Haller said.

On-site counseling is also offered and security officers have been on campuses since spring 2014.

Mesa County Sheriff’s data shows arrests for underage possession of marijuana fell slightly between 2013 and 2015.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel

This story was first published on DenverPost.com