A new study has shown that suspending a student for marijuana use may actually boost peer teen drug use rather than deterring it. When the student is suspended for using marijuana the use of this drug by classmates tends to increase. Instead of suspension counseling may be a more effective option. The study was performed by the University of Washington in partnership with researchers from Australia. Researchers discovered that the enforcement of anti drug policies is important, but the response that a school has to policy violations can make a big difference in the outcome and whether peers of the teen involved engage in marijuana use. In the study schools from Victoria, Australia and Washington, USA were compared concerning drug policies, and how these policies affected student marijuana use.
Suspending a student for marijuana use can encourage teen drug abuse by peers of the student, because in the world of teenagers there are many who will view the suspension as a sign of rebellion and want to emulate the student who was suspended. Researchers were startled by the study results. According to University of Washington’s School of Social Work professor and co-author of the study Dr. Richard Catalano “That was surprising to us. It means that suspensions are certainly not having a deterrent effect. It’s just the opposite.” To reduce marijuana use among all students, we need to ensure that schools are using drug policies that respond to policy violations by educating or counseling students, not just penalizing them.” Schools that had policies in place for counseling referral instead of suspension saw the opposite effect, with peers 50% less likely to engage in marijuana use.