Three Staples High School students have been expelled during the last month because they allegedly brought marijuana-laced brownies to school, and others face disciplinary action for doing the same, Staples Principal John Dodig has confirmed.
The first incident took place in early October and the second was last week, Dodig said Thursday.
In both cases, students brought the tainted treats to Staples for their own consumption, not to share or sell to other students, he said.
"They ate them to get high," Dodig told the Westport News. "That's what marijuana is for."
In both incidents, someone who saw the students eating the brownies and giggling informed an assistant principal, Dodig said.
Two of the three students who were expelled for their involvement in the early October incident will be allowed to return to Staples for the second semester of the current school year, while the third will not be able to come back until November 2013. If the two students permitted to attend Staples next semester were to commit serious violations of school rules in the future, their expulsions could resume, Dodig said.
In an email sent to Staples parents Wednesday, Dodig said, in part: "Over the last month, we have had two separate incidents involving kids bringing marijuana-laced brownies into school.
"As we always do, we follow every lead hoping to trace back the illegal substance to its source. Whether or not young people use marijuana or alcohol is really a family matter. Our job is to provide the facts about what those substances do to our bodies. ...
"There have been three expulsion hearings resulting in three of our students being expelled from the Westport public schools for one year. Some will return earlier with the expulsion hanging over their heads ready to be reinstated if they make another big mistake. Drugs in school cannot be tolerated. Hopefully, these young people will have learned a lesson early in life."
Speaking to the Westport News, Dodig said, "We have 1,900 teenagers and, on any given day, somebody is going to make a stupid decision.
"What I hope the message will be is, `I don't like what you did. There's a consequence and you will pay for what you did. But I still love you, and when you return, you will be welcomed with open arms.' "
Hearings are set to be held soon for the other students involved in the second marijuana-brownie incident, Dodig said. Depending on the outcome of those hearings, the students accused of bringing the altered baked goods to Staples last week could also be expelled.
Dodig declined to disclose how many students were involved in the second incident. School administrators also have not specified the grade levels of any of the implicated students.
Westport police have also been involved in the investigation of the two incidents, Dodig said.
Police were not available to comment Thursday afternoon.
The two incidents do not point to a pervasive drug problem at Staples, Dodig said. While he acknowledged that some of the high school's students use alcohol and marijuana, Dodig said drug use at Westport's public high school is limited compared to rampant student abuse of alcohol and marijuana with which he contended as an assistant principal at Daniel Hand High School in Madison in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"My recollection is that almost all of my time was consumed with chasing down the smell of marijuana," Dodig said. "I remember at one prom, when the lights went on in the dining room, there were hundreds of bottles of liquor under the table. It was awful. There was a lot of cocaine back then, too."
Dodig attributed the drop-off in students' alcohol and drug use to the rise of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Destructive Decisions, expanded and improved health curricula, counseling services for students and better relationships between teachers and pupils.
"If you go back through history, teenagers have always engaged in some sort of risky behavior," Dodig added. "It's part of the nature of being a teenager. But, from my perspective, it's 100 times better than it was."
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