CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A new bill in the House of Delegates would require all West Virginia public schools to have drug awareness and prevention programs for all K-12 students.
House Bill 2195 passed the House Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Committee Tuesday, and is now in the House Education Committee.
The law would not require any extra funding, according to the state Department of Education.
Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, said this is an inexpensive way of addressing the state’s drug problems.
“We’re trying to find funding for drug programs, we’re trying to deal with penalties for breaking the law and trying to scare drug traffickers away from bringing drugs into West Virginia,” Frich said. “There’s a demand for drugs in this state.”
Frich, who is also a member of the House Finance Committee, is determined to stop drug addiction.
“The budget’s important, but trying to stop this drug issue is the most important priority that I have,” she said.
Current state code mandates the state board of education must prescribe drug prevention programs starting when students enroll in kindergarten. However, students are only required to take a yearly course through eighth grade, followed by just one course in high school.
Delegate Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, a former member of the Greenbrier County Board of Education, said the bill is based in good faith, but unnecessary based on his experience.
“It requires county school systems to do something they are already doing and doesn’t give them any additional funding to do anything over and above,” Baldwin said.
HB 2195 also would require instruction on how students should act when interacting with police officers during investigations, which Frich sees as a positive.
“In recent history, we’ve seen some problems with people getting into trouble, even getting shot because they were not interacting properly with police,” she said. “If someone would have explained to them just how you should be behaving at a traffic stop or dealing with police and your rights versus theirs, it would have prevented them from getting into trouble.”
Baldwin said police could serve a better role by becoming part of drug prevention lessons, noting a family member who serves as an officer in a Florida school.
“She actually works on that curriculum as part of her job,” he said. “It’s a wonderful way to build relationships between law enforcement and students in the classroom.”
Baldwin said he would love to provide schools with opportunities to interact with community organizations, yet funding would be necessary.
“The problem is those folks are working on very tight budgets as well,” Baldwin said. “There’s going to have to be a funding mechanism if we really want to go over and above and do more.”
If the bill were to become law, schools would have to lessons ready for the 2017-2018 school year.