Youth & Education
4:32 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Seattle Public Schools: Spike In Marijuana Use Not Just Seen At Roosevelt High

  Roosevelt High School has invited an expert on teen substance abuse to address concerned parents after the the school's principal sent a letter to parents about an increase in drug and alcohol use at the school. 

The letter by principal Brian Vance said the school's number of disciplinary incidents involving marijuana and alcohol use had "doubled" since last year, from 12 incidents to 24.

Seattle Public Schools officials say they've observed a similar trend district-wide.

"Specifically, really this school year, we've seen a dramatic increase in marijuana use on campus by our students," said Lisa Sharp, who runs Seattle Public Schools' drug and alcohol prevention programs. 

The district does not yet have figures that quantify the increase; Sharp said her assessment is based on anecdotal evidence and reports from schools.

"That's something that's been brought up across the district at [the] middle school and high school [level]. It's not a north-end thing, it's not a south-end thing; it's an everywhere thing," Sharp said.

The district conducts surveys on drug use by students every two years. The latest such survey, conducted in 2012, showed no significant change, district-wide, in the percentage of students using marijuana (1 percent of sixth-graders, 10 percent of eighth-graders and 23 percent of high school students) since 2010. 

However, a 2012 survey of tenth-graders at Roosevelt High showed a steady increase in pot use since 2006. In 2012, 27 percent of sophomores reported using pot — up from 18 percent in 2006.

Vance said while only a small portion of the student body reported using marijuana, most students know someone who is using and may need help. Research has shown marijuana is harmful to teenagers' brain development, he said.

"There's a perception that there isn't that much harm to some [marijuana] use for adolescents," said Vance, "and I think some parents carry that along with them.”

Sharp said she often has to coax parents into being more proactive in talking with their students about drug use.

"I've spoken to many parents who say, 'It's not my kid so I don't need to worry about it.' But my message to them is that, 'Your kid is going to school and talking to people and living in a community for a lot of their day where this might be something that comes into their world.'"

The school's guest speaker, Dr. Leslie Walker of Seattle Children's Hospital, will discuss the effects of marijuana on brain development as well as prevention methods on Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the school's library.