Two fifth-grade students at Austin Independent School District’s Graham Elementary School were caught distributing drugs at school to fellow fifth-grade students, according to a letter sent to parents on March 1.
“Never did I think an elementary school would be dealing with stuff like this, middle school, high school, not elementary,” said a concerned grandparent.
Austin ISD police are investigating and proper procedures have been followed, states the letter.
“You don’t expect it, they’re too young. you think they’re so innocent,” said the grandparent.
The district says the incident happened on Feb. 27 but did not specify how the children were being disciplined.
“Xanax was the drug that was being talked about,” said the grandparent. “The kids are saying five kids were suspended, three of them are back and two of them won’t be back until April.”
The school would not confirm to KXAN what type of drugs the students were dealing.
Parents are upset because the letter states they would be notified of an upcoming meeting revolving around safety and security but three weeks later they will haven’t held an open meeting.
Suspending Young Students
Last year, Texas lawmakers banned most out-of-school suspensions for pre-K through third-grade students with exceptions for offenses that involve weapons, drugs and alcohol, or assault and sex assault.
“There are some situations where disciplinary referrals are mandated by federal law,” said Susan Dawson, E3 Alliance president. “But, in most cases what we find is that there are other tools that are more effective.”
This week, a report released by Texans Care for Children highlights the impacts suspensions can have on young students, specifically those in pre-K through second grade.
“Every time you take a student out of the classroom, they lose that time to learn and we also find that some populations, in particular, our low-income men of color are set on a pathway where they are victimized instead of learning,” said Dawson.
Texans Care for Children says more than 100,000 Texas pre-K, kindergarten, first and second-grade students were suspended during the 2015-2016 school year.
Nearly 65,000 were in-school suspensions, a little more than 36,000 were out-of-school suspensions.
The study also shows boys were four times more likely to be suspended than girls. Black students were twice as likely to receive in-school suspensions than white students. Special education students were twice as likely to be suspended. And, students in foster care were nearly three times more likely to be suspended.
As time goes on Dawson believes there will be change.
“There’s been an important movement both here locally and Central Texas and as well in legislation that impacts the entire state to find other solutions rather than just suspending and expelling our children,” said Dawson. “Especially our youngest children.”
The full letter from Graham Elementary School:
Dear Graham School Community,
The safety and well-being of all our students at Graham Elementary School is our top priority. With this in mind, I am writing to let you know about an incident that has affected our campus.
Two fifth grade students were found to have distributed illegal drugs to several students in 5th grade. As this is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, Ms. Paredes administration then contacted Austin ISD police.
Austin ISD police conducted an investigation and proper procedures were followed.
We want to take this opportunity to encourage you to talk to your students about drug abuse and about substances that are dangerous to them, as well as about the importance of bringing these matters to your attention or the attention of a trusted adult on campus.
You will be notified soon about an upcoming meeting about safety and security.
We appreciate your support as we work together to ensure each child’s safety and well-being at Graham Elementary. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at 512-414-2374.
Graham Elementary School
The school sent KXAN a statement:
As you know it is our practice that campus principal letters speak for themselves. In the case of Graham Elementary School, we believe it is important to add that keeping our campuses safe for all students is a collaborative effort between the district, parents and greater Austin ISD community.Austin ISD Police Lieutenant Gustavo Barrera would like to remind all parents to use the following tips to keep our students safe at school:
- Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medication out of reach of all children,
- Speak with your students about the dangers of taking any medication that is not prescribed to them and to never share any medication,
- Remind students that medication should only be taken with the guidance and permission of an adult and
- Be mindful of what students bring to school.
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