Monday, March 06, 2023

Public School Administrators urge NO vote on SQ 820

School Administrators Urge NO Vote on SQ 820
OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel: “Legalizing recreational marijuana for adults will lead to more children having access and trying it”

(March 6th) School administrators from across the state gathered at the state capitol today to encourage a NO vote on SQ 820, the effort to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.   All speakers iterated they were making these statements as individuals with experience in our schools and were not speaking on behalf of the entities where they are employed.

Muskogee Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall led off the event.  “Under the cover of the state’s medical marijuana program, we have seen an increase in students using marijuana.  SQ 820 will increase that access and puts our schools in a very difficult situation because marijuana’s use is so difficult to detect. As educators our goal is to maximize a student’s ability to achieve, but marijuana strikes at that very core.  Ingesting THC as the adolescent brain is actively developing has horrible consequences. Marijuana use among those under 25 harms brain development including difficulty in thinking, problem solving, and memory loss,” Mendenhall stated.

Dr. Matt Posey, Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools a rural school district in Pottawatomie County serving approximately 400 students, was among the speakers.

“Speaking as an Oklahoma citizen, I'm deeply concerned about the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana and its potential impact on Oklahoma students and education. Teen marijuana use is already a major concern, and I anticipate that recreational legalization will only exacerbate the current problems by dramatically increasing accessibility,” Posey stated.

“Bethel Public Schools does not take a position for, or against, SQ820. However, I urge voters to further consider the potential impacts that legalizing recreational marijuana may have on Oklahoma students and the school environment. We must take steps to ensure that our students have access to safe and healthy academic environments with an emphasis on their overall health and well-being,” Posey concluded.

Guthrie High School principal Chris LeGrande also expressed his concerns.  “As a school administrator speaking as a private citizen, the legalization of recreational marijuana is very concerning.  Marijuana in its simplest form is a gateway drug that leads to more serious drug addictions. Marijuana’s use creates a carefree persona that is detrimental to learning and subsequent academic achievement,” state LeGrande.

A few school leaders who could not attend also issued statements in opposition to State Question 820.  One of these was Dr. Joe Siano who served as Superintendent for Norman Public Schools for 17 years. 

“Schools across our state have seen an increase in marijuana usage under the medical marijuana system.  Moving to legalizing recreational marijuana will make this worse. Our school leaders want the focus to be on academic achievement, but the proliferation of marijuana in our communities and the consequential increase in its usage among our students and in our schools takes us away from that central mission.  Not only does recreational legalization lead to more individual lives being sidetracked by addiction, but it diverts the resources of our schools, ultimately hurting all of our children, our families, and our communities,” stated Siano.

Oklahoma City Public Schools District 89 serves more student than any other in the state. Their leader, Superintendent Sean McDaniel also provided a statement. 

“During my more than 30 years working to improve the lives of young people, it is still heart-breaking to see a child damage, or even destroy, a promising future by starting down the road of substance abuse which often begins with marijuana.  The record is clear, legalizing recreational marijuana for adults will lead to more children having access and trying it out. With today’s high THC, that means the more of our youth and young adults will have thier addiction circuitry activated.. No amount of tax dollars is worth putting one life, one family, one community, through the pain that can cause. 

The school administrators were joined and supported by state legislators and members of the law enforcement community as well as Protect Our Kids NO 820 Co-Chairs, former Governor Frank Keating and former Commissioner of the Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Terri White.


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