Drugs and schools: ‘We have to be pro-active’

By Deb Murphy

“The times they are a changin’ “

When Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics back in 1964, the “drug scene” focused on pot and hash, with psychedelics a bit in the future, cocaine and meth even farther out. Those were the days when recreational drug users knew what they were getting into. The times have changed and Bishop schools are trying to get out in front of those changes.


“We had a rash of discipline events at the first of the year,” Bishop High School Principal Randy Cook said in a recent interview, “but the numbers haven’t really gone up per se. The availability has gone up.”

Bishop Unified School District Superintendent Barry Simpson explained the current terrain. “With new legislation and changes in societal attitudes about pot in particular, the sensibility is different than it was 10 years ago. Not that there hasn’t always been pot around and kids are going to experiment.” But, the school is faced with new challenges and “we have to be pro-active,” Simpson said.

The legislation includes marijuana for medicinal use and the near certainty that it will be legalized in California, plus the passage of Prop. 47 that reduced the three strikes sentences to violent criminals. According to both Sheriff Bill Lutze and District Attorney Tom Hardy, the proposition and enabling legislation reduced simple possession of a controlled substance to a misdemeanor. The unintended result: those cited for possession are far less inclined to roll over on their source, allowing the “free market” to run its course.


Throw in vapor pens, e-cigarettes, easier access to marijuana through medicinal card holders and area collectives, edibles and the over-the-counter availability of synthetics and the landscape takes on a whole new look.

BUSD administrators recently met with law enforcement to help work out that pro-active strategy Simpson is looking for. The answer focuses on what Bishop Police Department Officer Ron Gladding calls “the rule of five:” you start five years before you think your child is going to be exposed to drugs; you start around second grade. For Gladding, the “just say no” or DARE programs don’t work as well as a fact-based program. The scare tactics of “Reefer Madness” are long gone.

Bishop High’s drug policy follows the California Ed Code, with suspension for possession, expulsion for sales on campus. What the school does have that’s tougher than at least other High Desert Leagues schools is zero tolerance and random drug testing for athletes. “Occasionally, we get kids who do test positive,” said Cook. “But those numbers aren’t up.” What the bi-weekly tests do is give athletes a good reason to decline drugs that register on the tests without looking totally uncool. According to Simpson, there’s more control over drugs on campus than off.

“We have reasonable policies,” said Cook. “But we also need to look at what the drugs do to the body.”

Adults who went through a drug phase may be skeptical. We all came out the other end fairly intact. But, according to Gladding, today’s drugs are different and the users, far younger. His youngest pot smoker was 11; the youngest coke dealer, 12. “Kids are going to be exposed,” he said. “You can’t keep them in a bubble.”  At a recent session with high school freshmen, Gladding had the students fill out a questionnaire including what drugs they seen at parties, etc. “There wasn’t a drug that wasn’t on it,” he said.

Gladding’s sessions focus on the effects. Like alcohol, drugs can have an impact on developing brains. “Anything that alters the mind has a negative impact,” he said, citing potheads in high school who in their 30s still have that slow, stoner mentality despite the fact they haven’t used pot in years.

The difference between today’s drugs and yesterday’s is where it really gets scary. “You used to just throw seed in the ground and grow marijuana,” he explained. “Now there’s cross-breeding and hydroponics” that result in double the levels of THC, the active ingredient in the plant. The danger with edibles is just that. “Edibles are sold by the THC level,” Gladding said. “If you’re eating a chocolate candy bar or brownies, you’re apt to consumer more and can end up with THC levels 10 to 25 times higher” than pot from “the day.”

Gladding maintains that pot is addictive based on the fact that the highest rate of self-check-ins at drug rehab facilities are using marijuana.

What’s the biggest challenge? Synthetics, said Gladding. “They’re being marketed as legal marijuana, meth and cocaine,” he said, in smoke shops and on-line. Laws have been passed that make the specific chemical compounds illegal, but the manufacturer just has to change the compound without changing the impact. “It’s being sold as incense and potpourri,” Gladding said. “They label it ‘not for consumption.’” But bath salts, salvia and spice are all being consumed and leading to visits to Northern Inyo Hospital’s emergency room, several a month according to Gladding. “Now, they’re cutting meth with bath salts. The world’s gone crazy.”

Those ER visits aren’t necessarily being reported to law enforcement. “There aren’t a lot of tests to find synthetics” in the system, Gladding said.

In the past, recreational drug users could gauge the coke high by the dimensions of the line being snorted. That’s not the case with today’s drug delivery systems. “It’s inconsistent,” he said. “There are hot spots. One hit and you’re on a ride.”

For now, Bishop administrators are collaborating with law enforcement, looking for ways to communicate better. “We’re looking at a lot of outreach to parents, more education, and earlier, in schools,” said Simpson. “We need to modify the message, make it realistic. Kids are no different now than 15 years ago. We want to educate them about the harm they can do to their bodies, their social well-being, with real information, real facts about what can happen to them, the road it can lead them down.”


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17 Responses to Drugs and schools: ‘We have to be pro-active’

  1. Clyde Allan April 12, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    The war will continue. Money will be spent, it justifys the system. Officer Gladding is a product of our enforcement and jail system. If we spent half of what we spend on enforcement on education , addiction assistance and rehab we might change things. Remember Nixon started this war and Billions have been spent on what? Keep up the cycle of ignorance.

    • Trouble April 14, 2015 at 6:11 am #

      Our kids face our governments war on drugs and really on our own people. My generation had Vietnam to look forward to.

  2. Trouble April 12, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    Why don’t you write about all the good kids at Bishop High? They out number the very few this article incorrectly itemizes and generalizes my kid with!

    • sugarmagnolia April 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

      Your assuming those who dabble in recreational drugs are not ‘good’ kids. Who is being judgmental now!

      Let’s judge kids on their achievements and their behavior…ie. treating adults with respect (when they deserve it), treating others well, going to school, holding a job, etc. and not judge them based on our biases and pre-conceived ideas!

      • Trouble April 14, 2015 at 6:08 am #

        Maybe so Sugar.

  3. Skadi April 11, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    What about prescription pills? While there is all this focus on marijuana – it seems that the whole prescription pill problem has been completely ignored. It’s easy to raid a family member’s medicine cabinet and walk away with pills like Oxycodone, Vicodin, Xanax…etc. Not only has pill addiction skyrockeded

    • Skadi April 11, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      Errg…toddler fingers…wish I could go edit that post.

      As I was saying – not only has pill addiction skyrocketed, it’s lead to more young people becoming hooked on heroin because it’s cheaper than pills on the street. Marijuana may be stronger than weed back in the day (although I’ve heard stories about weed back in the day and never experienced anything like these stories), but it still won’t kill anyone. It’s also still less addictive than both tobacco and alcohol (both killers and both legal). Yes, edibles can REALLY mess you up, but in the end, you’ll be fine. One has to consume something like 5,000 times their body weight of THC for it to cause a fatal overdose – something that is probably impossible and to date hasn’t happened.

      While this is a decent article highlighting a problem that has existed since there has been kids and schools, it forgot some dangerous drugs that are readily available.

  4. biggame April 11, 2015 at 5:08 am #

    lowinyo- give me a break. Are you speaking from experience? You smoked pot in the 70s and have recently smoked, and therefor you are able to adequitly make that comparasion? Why does it matter if pot is more potent? Does it matter to you that paint fumes are less harmful now than they were 40yrs ago? SO WHAT? if a student is caught with possession of a controled substance at school, take action. Otherwise leave it alone.As far as those who dabbled in drugs during their high school years in terms of success….i guarantee you, that the majority have moved on and became successful. I would not be suprised if i learned several of those successful individuals occassionaly still dabble today. Once again… who cares? Why are people so caught up in the petty things people do, that do not concern them? Why are the schools acting as law enforcment? TEACH ALREADY! When the day is over, go home and worry about your own children. for crying out loud!

  5. Low-Inyo April 9, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    Trouble; Comparing drugs nowdays with the drugs back in the 70’s (especially marijuana and it’s potency) is like apples and oranges….back in the 70’s,you could smoke a joint and properly function….with the stuff out there now,smoke a joint,if it’s really potent weed,20 minutes later your debating if you should find someone to drive you to the ER.

    • Trouble April 11, 2015 at 6:47 am #

      Low-Inyo- Baloney!!!! THC is THC. It’s the same thing as alcohol. You can have one Bacardi or ten beers. Pick your poison. Your just echoing the just say no folks hog wash!

  6. Trouble April 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    Sorry Deb, there is no way there are more drugs in the schools now than there were in the 70’s. No way, no how, no chance. Randy Cook is old enough to know this!

  7. Jeremiah Joseph April 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    God forbid anybody develop a substance abuse problem nowadays, I mean this is what they’re up against = punitive actions on them, close minded institutions, blanket statements, lack of information and confirmation bias…
    Geez no wonder Americans live shorter lives and suffer more health issues than people in other high income countries.. not to mention the 15 year life expectancy difference depending on where you live, your race, your income and how educated you are… oh but we are number 1 right? so just keep voting for the demopublicans, its really working out for us..

  8. biggame April 9, 2015 at 4:15 am #

    “decline the use of drugs that register on tests” great! and thus increase the use of drugs that do not register on tests ie. synthetic drugs that result in visits to the E.R.? And Simpson ” we have more control of drugs on campus” Really? Why on earth would you have any control off campus at all? Public schools are for the purpose to provide a fundamental civil right to an education. I do not know how it is legal to random drug test in school. It is a violation of our rights to privacy and the right to be free of illegal search and seizure. What students do out side of school is none of their (school) business. When students who would normally be participating in sports, become ineligable.. what do you think they are going to do? probably more drugs. and Cook shame on you! “Uncool” ?

  9. sugar magnolia April 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Hear hear! I completely agree with Mr. Gladding that DARE is a gigantic waste of money. Brain washing plain and simple does not work and I’ve been saying that since DARE started.

    He is correct that open, honest education is best way to reach people. But unfortunately, Gladding then goes on to make one of the stupidest comments I have ever seen:

    “Anything that alters the mind has a negative impact,” he said, citing potheads in high school who in their 30s still have that slow, stoner mentality despite the fact they haven’t used pot in years.

    Anything that alters the mind has a negative impact??? That sounds like a very close minded, uneducated person. Many things that alter the mind have a positive impact, I’m sure we’ve all experienced that. And then to say that people who smoked pot in high school become permanent stoners…what a freak!

    My time in high school was a time period where probably 80% of students smoked pot, often at school, often every day. Guess what, those people don’t have that ‘slow, stoner mentatlity’. Most are now very successful, productive members of society..doctors, lawyers, CEO’s etc. Certainly some people went down a wrong path, or got hooked on destructive drugs, but they were the exception and likely people who weren’t going to be successful to begin with.

    What kids need to know, is reality. What are the drugs out there that they will be exposed to…ie. chemically, what is it and how does it work on their bodies. Honestly, what are the risks for each drug. And this information has to be delivered by someone they can trust to be honest (definitely not Mr. Gladding, although I appreciate his earnestness).
    This class would need to include prescription drugs, much more significant as ‘gateway’ drugs than marijuana.

    And, the really hard thing, they will need to be honest that some drugs have minimal negative affects at all. But that is the key thing here. We’ve been trying to tell kids DRUGS ARE BAD, STAY AWAY….instead of saying, ‘here’s the ones that can ruin your life if you try them even once, here are the ones that can kill you if you use too much, etc etc. We can’t sugar coat stuff and we can’t say something is worse than it really is.

    I support Bishop High’s goal to communicate better to students…you just need to change who you are collaborating with. The PD are understandably biased and not going to be able to establish the trust necessary to make this be successful. I’d like to see it be science based. Perhaps a part of health class, but taught by an unbiased science teacher. If you try to teach this with a biased person, the value will be lost

    • Eastside Bum April 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

      With all due respect Sugar, I think your 4th and 5th paragraphs are inaccurate. I’ve heard the same statements from others, “believing that people who took part in drugs during school have become leaders and successful in life”. That may be true for a tiny minority of folks, but sadly, for the majority of others simply untrue. It’s a common misconception, especially from those who think marijuana is okay.
      The best example a child has are good parents, extended family, and the right circle of friends. It’s critical for society to function properly, without that we fail together as a whole.

      • sugar magnolia April 10, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

        You’re entitled to your opinion EB….I know for a fact that some of the people I smoked pot with and/or bought it from are:

        high level exec. at Fox Network
        CPA at Arthur Anderson
        Exec. for SF Giants
        Elected State Representative
        Many are high level IT for large corporations
        not too mention – many are teachers, have good jobs with local governments, or run their own business.

        These are people I’ve either stayed in touch with, or reconnected with through facebook. Not saying that some people didn’t have trouble getting on the right path or that some never got off the wrong path, but to say the majority of people who smoked pot aren’t high functioning adults is just plain incorrect

        Oh, for what its worth, I did not grow up in Bishop or Mammoth

  10. Ken Warner April 8, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    “The world’s gone crazy.”

    Yes it has. And people keep trying to save others from themselves. Hasn’t worked yet….


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