Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Skateboarding, Drugs and Harm Reduction (week 8)

The main article we were to read called Restorative Justice in School Communities. At the end of page 250 speaks to use of drugs and alcohol to deal with alienation. It is in reference to youth but I believe this insight can be used towards adults as well. I do not like that the focus is on getting them to quit using. I just think that acknowledging that there is something that is alienating these youth and addressing that is what is important. Youth are rarely given autonomy. I know that youth are not fully developed and that drugs and alcohol can hinder this process. I also thinking coming at it from the perspective of wanting to control behaviors is a bad foundation to build from. On page 253 it goes on to talk about “170,000 disciplinary actions of expulsion, transfer or out-of-school suspensions of more than five days.” This is why focusing on abstinence is a slipper slope. Focus should be on tools that provide more social acceptable coping strategies. But this could be an in between step, a compromise. 

She goes on to state that “The belief that possession and use constitutes a victimless crime is antithetical to the principle of restorative justice where at the very least, a harm is done to the community every time a student comes to school under the influence.” (258) I think this is a weak argument that portrays drug use unrealistically. Also earlier in the article she states that most students are not using at school. Furthermore, some drugs such as marijuana have been seen to help concentration issues associated with ADHD and that ADHD is associated with PTSD (trauma) which a lot of youth would are acting out are struggling to overcome. Marijuana has also been found to help lower anxiety. There are some reports that it delays development but so does trauma and stress and well... coffee so maybe we should have a latte crackdown. Long term the effects of caffeine are much worse than marijuana. Caffeine is highly addictive, causes anxiety problems, tears up the stomach and throat as well as the intestines and can be highly aggravating to people who have other digestive and/or anxiety problems. Last I check there was still no cases of cancer from marijuana. It does not cause people to act out or be violent. It makes people calm maybe a little too calm. This is when I would take a harm reduction approach. Telling a student they cannot use will just make them stop coming to school. Instead you could ask if they will smoke less weed before coming to school so they are less despondent. I am not saying we should condone abuse and have teenagers lighting up all over the campus. Most schools have a no smoking rule anyway for safety and public exposure reasons. I am saying that we, as social justice activists, are feeding into this fallacy that youth do not have the capacity to be responsible for their decisions, that these youth do not deserve autonomy. This is not how to connect with them because they are intelligent and capable of and want to have control over the decisions that are being made in their life.

This is a pretty personal topic for me to be addressing as a person who was academically strong until high school. At this point the bullying had gotten so bad that I was skipping constantly. My last quarter I still had like three or four As in the class I would at least show up to take tests. The rest, for example PE, I just never went. I tried to work out something where I didn’t have to go to school but would turn in my assignments but I was denied and expelled. About a year later I went and took my GED with literally minimal studying and passed with high scores a year before my graduating class. Yet not having a diploma, still impacts me. I still have to put on job applications that I have my GED which this alone has bared me from attending some colleges and there is not a section where I can explain that I was a Queer kid that dropped out to take care of themselves and that I graduated a year early with high scores. #stigma The thing is that I actually was not ever in trouble at school except for skipping. I was smoking weed and drinking but not at school. We did smoke cigarettes down the street on our lunch break though. I was still getting almost straight As. The problem was that the school was unsafe for me and the classes were below my intelligence level. Our textbooks were over a decade old. Some were printed before I was born.

The video I watched was for Resolutions NW ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqu-1FAx4U8) because in general I really like their work. Sadly, it felt more like a commercial then something I could engage with. I do think it was a great general video that shows many perspectives of why the RJ process works for the general public. I am I am already sold. But I played some of the side videos and found a couple great ones.

First was another Resolutions NW video but this one showed more what RJ actually looks like in implementation. I know that this is a dramatization but in general I know from experience that this works. (Resolutions Northwest - What Students Want Adults to Know About Restorative Justice

This is video is also not totally interesting but it is cool to hear from the youth why they like RJ.
(SFUSD • Restorative Practices; Student Voices https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lllaTksKtw)

This is so awesome. I am still not having much luck with my case study so I might look more into this as a case study. If I can find any more information. I love that if they get a 4.0 they get a new board. Also, the accountability around grades by having grade requirements. Skateboarding is great because it is a solo sport that you do with others. So it is great for loners who are timid around making friends.
(SFUSD • Mission High School Skate Club https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_FGrpveD_4)

In addition, comment on whether or not the motivations or intentions of administrators in educational settings impact the evaluation or effectiveness of a RJ program. For example, how might an administrative focus on attendance, drug abuse, vandalism or other pattern of offenses impact the implementation and evaluation of particular RJ practices?
I think it depends on the situation but in general this is a what came first the chick or the egg question. I would assume that the people implementing RJ in the school system must have shifted enough to try RJ but not everyone at the school especially new students would create a constant shift from where they came from (probably exclusionary) to inclusionary practices. This requires new skills in communication, in empathy, etc.

I think it is common for people especially those who are in power to see behaviors instead of people. I am not sure how to help correct this. I think in general I am a bit too radical to talk to these folks but I am great with youth and others that authoritarians generally have problems with. So I am never really sure what to do. I suppose I need to learn how to code switch a bit better. I think programs like the skate program I mentioned in my other post will start to show numbers and it is hard to be oppressive towards numbers. In generally it is not practical to judge one system based on the processes of another system. What I mean is that judging restorative justice with process and procedures of criminal justice is at best illogical. I mean what are we trying to do teach students to be mindless robots or create a safe environment where the students are going to want to come and learn. When the educational system becomes one step to the prison system then of course youth are going to stop going. They have a better chance of staying out of jail on the streets then they do in an educational system that also discriminates against them for their age as well as often for markers like skin color. When administrators cannot realize this they become part of the problem. It is our job to convince them to be part of the solution. Help them reanalyze what their priorities are and what they should be.

Other:

Thanks for your thoughts. I did not mean to seem like I was not acknowledging its negative affects but that I think too much focus on it being bad and not enough focus on other legal drugs (coffee) and how things like trauma affect the brain. In other words, I personally am more concerned on the impact of trauma on a developing brain than weed. This is what I was trying to say with "There are some reports that it delays development but so does trauma and stress and well... coffee so maybe we should have a latte crackdown." I realize I should have flushed that thought out a bit more so it did not seem like I was trying to paint a rosy picture of a complex and under-researched subject. I feel that because the rhetoric that drugs are the root of all evil is so prevalent, that I do not feel a need to state that argument as it has already been over presented. I also tend to go on at lengths, such as with this response, so I try to keep it short when possible sometimes to the detriment of what I am trying to express. Also I apologize for the length but it has been something I wanted to flush out anyways.

In the article it says that weed "changes the structure of the teenage brain, specifically in areas dealing with memory and problem solving." My point was not to dispute this but to acknowledge that trauma and other drugs and alcohol also does this exact thing.

Also I think it is important to remember that IQ tests are generally considered to be racist and sexist. Also those targeted for drug searches is usually racist. Furthermore I have not seen a single study that shows that pot is physically addictive. Furthermore, only one of these studies (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.long#sec-10), cited by the paper ( http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.full) the article was referencing, analyze only those who are using pot and not also drinking. We know that drinking kills brain cells as well, especially binge drinking.


This article http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.full that the NPR article is referencing has a ton of citations but upon looking through them most of the research is based on studies on rats. Most of the studies on humans had extremely small sample sizes and in my opinion often did not have adequate variables and controls.

I am not trying to disagree but I also don’t entirely agree. I just think that we are quick and eager to jump to conclusions and don't realize that research can really be manipulated to say anything especially with small and select sample sizes. And most importantly correlation does not equal causation. I did find this study (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.long#sec-10) referenced which I think has acceptable methods or at least seems to try. I have concern that I am having trouble quickly locating the sample size other than 38 persistent cannabis users. I will assume the rest of the sample groups have about similar numbers which means for total numbers they probably had the most since they had something like five groupings. Also they do not factor trauma into the variables and controls. 

In other words this study does not look at the effect that trauma has on IQ. Sometimes it might be a which is the worse of two evils but it could also be a case of blaming a "drug" instead of the underlying cause of trauma. (Remember there is a strong correlation between drugs abuse and trauma.) Removing a drug that is treating trauma, might lower the individual's IQ even more... it is hard to be able to isolate one cause and often the causes impact and build upon each other such as drug use leading into increased symptoms which led to increasingly greater drug use. I am saying that I do not believe we have sufficient evidence to state one thing or the other. I tend to be neutral in my perspectives until given sufficient evidence. I am saying that I believe we need to analyze all these things when discussing these issues. 

This is why for me, I believe that not trying to address drug use but instead looking at unacceptable behaviors and also what other factors could be contributing to drug abuse and treating those because we know that they are harmful and that usually by treating underlying causes the drug abuse goes away. With addicts if you take away their coping mechanism, the underlying behaviors are still there and sometimes become worse. Treatments that are not based in absence only methods actually have better results for the individuals because they help the individuals get to the underlying causes of the abuse but there has not been a lot of research accepted by academia because it does not rely on abstinence. What I am really trying to say is that I just don’t buy into drugs are the root of all evil rhetoric. I also do not buy into drugs are the solution for everything rhetoric either. (Including drugs like ritalin – I mean do we know about what effects it has on development and IQ?) 

I think these situations need to have compassion and empathy and recognize that it is not a black and white issue. I feel that because the rhetoric that drugs are the root of all evil is so prevalent, that I do not feel a need to state that argument as it has already been presented. By making it all about drugs, it others the person you are trying to relate to. This is going to do the opposite of help because it will further alienate the person. In other words, I am not trying to speak in favor of or against drugs but I am going to say that focusing on them instead of the person, their behaviors and their struggles will only further alienate someone who is probably already feeling very alienated.


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