Thursday, June 21, 2007

Of marijuana and free speech

A bright young man's future is on the line because of a vindictive high school principal in Saskatchewan and a mouthy school superintendent.

15-year-old Kieran King made the mistake of thinking that students have a right to discuss issues of the day. Not in Wawota, Sask., pop. 600, they don't. Having heard one of those school presentations on the dangers of drugs, he opined to a group of classmates that marijuana was safer than tobacco or alcohol. A fellow student complained to the principal, and the bud was in the fire.

The principal, Ms. Susan Wilson, is not one of those people who just sits back and wrings her hands. She immediately telephoned the boy's mother, accusing him of promoting drug use and threatening to call the police if he ever raised the issue at school again.

The kid wasn't having that, and organized a protest outside the school. But the principal by this time had the bit in her teeth. She locked down the school, called the RCMP, conducted a threat assessment of King, and, for good measure, suspended him for three days so that he couldn't sit his final exams. A Grade Ten student whose marks were in the high eighties, King will now get a barely passing mark on his transcript, which could affect his chances of getting a university scholarship later on.

As might be expected, the principal's absurd overreaction was defended by Don Rempel, director of education in the South East Cornerstone School Division,
and by Audrey Trombley, the elected chair of the school board,
both of whom said that she had acted appropriately. A letter-writer in today's Globe and Mail wags his finger, stating that King had crossed the line by "proselytizing" for the evil weed, and repeating that hoary canard that "responsibilities attach to rights."

It gets worse. Superintendent
of education Velda Weatherald is now on the public record (YouTube) smearing the young man by claiming he had been accused of drug dealing. It looks like the whole matter will end up in the courts.

As for King, he's presently in Shanghai learning Mandarin and teaching English as a second language. He says he's never even seen marijuana--he just believes in researching issues and speaking out. He thought he had the right to do so. Good grief, what has he been smoking?

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