Thursday, June 14, 2007

Student suspended after voicing marijuana opinion

Canada National Post, June 12 2007

Kieran King's views on marijuana have led to his suspension from Wawota Parkland School.

King said he was threatened with police action by Principal Susan Wilson previously after making the case that marijuana was less harmful than alcohol.

"In my opinion, cannabis is safer than they say, it is not worse than alcohol or tobacco," said King, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student.

Wilson accused King of using and selling marijuana at school, according to a media release issued by the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party. King has offered to submit to a voluntary drug test to prove otherwise.

"I've never smoked marijuana. I've never even seen it," said King.

He said he had done independent research on marijuana use out of personal curiosity and decided to share the information with his friends at school.

Feeling his right to freedom of speech had been violated by Wilson, he organized a walkout to begin at 11:05 a.m on Tuesday.

Instead, he said the school was locked down in anticipation of the attempted walkout. Teachers reportedly stood in the doorways threatening punishment for leaving the school.

King and his brother Lucas were given three-day-suspensions for disobeying the lockdown.

Outside the school, three members of the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party, one member of the NDP and one protester gathered in the parking lane in front of the school. They used a megaphone to show their support for King and the students, said Ethan Erkiletian, an executive member of the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party.

Only four students walked out of the school, including King and his brother. The other two students returned to the school to avoid punishment.

"When we asked them why they locked down the school they said we were from outside the community and had a megaphone and might be frightening to the parents and students," said Erkiletian.

Two RCMP officers arrived and observed the walkout. No arrests were made and no charges were pressed.

The group of seven disbanded at 12:30 p.m.

"The main purpose wasn't cannabis. It was the defence of the freedom of speech. I believe we have a right to freedom of expression. I don't believe in vulgarity," said King.

The three-day suspension will prevent King from writing his final exams before he goes to China on a correspondence course. He's to leave Thursday.

The honour student said he will still pass Grade 10 because his marks are in the 80s and 90s. By missing his final exams he will lose 30 per cent of his marks.

"I know my children don't smoke, drink or take drugs," said King's mother, Jo Ann Buler. "As a parent I feel I need to support Kieran but I can see both sides of the issue."

Buler is a teacher and works in the school division which oversees Wawota Parkland School. She said she holds no ill will for the school and believes Kieran and the school have a point of view.

"He doesn't feel he's promoting drug use by talking about it. I don't think he deserves a permanent black mark on his school record," said Buler.

Neither Wilson nor the school division returned calls made by the Leader-Post.

Zero-tolerance laws are now in effect to such an extent that even an academic discussion on the subject of a school taboo is itself cause for alarm. Kieran, as we have seen, felt his Health classes weren't giving him a complete picture of marijuana and did independent research to better inform himself. Whether he was right or not depends entirely on the bias of his sources, of course, and the involvement of the Saskatchewan Marijuna Party leads me to believe he wasn't being particularly impartial.

Nevertheless: He was not participating in, nor promoting, illegal activities, but seeking to inform and educate himself and others about an important political issue. Criminalizing dissenting (and informed!) opinions about the government and its policies leads quickly to a one-party system and totalitarianism.

Despite the overreaction of the school principal, everyone involved here did a commendable job on keeping things under control. No arrests were made, and no charges were pressed. The student will still be able to go on his foreign correspondence trip and was not recommended for expulsion. There were no riots, no screaming parents and no national drug crisis. Altogether I think the Canadians as a group were sane, responsible, and just in their decisions, considering the circumstances.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Watch this video of a school official explaining her actions:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: