When Kern High School District Trustee Janice Graves taught at Foothill High School five years ago, one of her male students had a violent seizure.
There was only so much she could do since she could not hold him up because he "was so heavy and strong."
Appropriate medical and fire personnel came in to help the student, and he received the proper medication to control the seizure.
Now if a similar episode took place among a student who uses medical cannabis to treat such a health issue, the student would not be able to receive their medication until they are at least 1,000 feet away from school grounds.
But a state bill making its way through the Legislature could change the way schools deal with the drug.
Senate Bill 223 would authorize a school board to decide whether to allow a parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis to a student on kindergarten-through-12th grade campuses.
According to the bill, medicinal cannabis would be administered in a non-smoking form, such as an edible, lotion or oil. Some qualifying conditions to become a medical marijuana patient in California include cancer, seizures, severe nausea and migraines.
The bill passed the Assembly and is currently in the state Senate. If it passes the chamber, it moves to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who can sign it into law or veto it. Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar proposal last year.
The reactions to the bill have been mixed.
Current law prohibits the possession and use of medical cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school site, according to Robert Meszaros, director of communication for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools. If a student has a valid medical cannabis recommendation, that student’s parent or guardian must pull them out of class, check them out of school, drive farther than 1,000 feet from school grounds, administer the medication, drive them back to school and check them back in.
Supporters of the bill believe not allowing students to use medical cannabis on school grounds jeopardizes their health, especially since other drugs are allowed to be administered.
"We’re not talking about kids smoking joints in the bathroom, we're talking about ... an edible, a lotion, a specific dosage recommended by a child's physician," said Whitney Weddell, a high school health teacher. "We have kids on campuses with eyedrops, insulin, drugs for attention deficit disorder, and many are narcotics, and no one bats an eye."
Opponents, however, believe this bill could open a bigger can of worms by bringing illegal drugs into schools and harming other students.
"When these kids come back to school high and can’t pay attention in school, it’s going to disrupt the whole class," said Shelley Lumpkins Crawford, who has a daughter in high school. "Plus, I think more drugs will be brought into school because of this, and kids that always wanted to experiment with the drug will have more kids saying it’s OK to try it and it won’t hurt them. What if this drug causes mental psychosis in some of the children using it and (it puts) the whole school in harm?"
If SB 223 is signed, and a district did elect to adopt a policy, minimum requirements would apply, such as administration of medicinal cannabis would not be done in a matter that would disrupt the educational environment or expose other students to it; any remaining medicinal cannabis would be removed from the school site and before administering it; and the parent or guardian would provide a valid written medical recommendation for medicinal cannabis for the student to be kept on file at the school.
Having parents administer the drug poses a problem for Kern High School District Trustee Jeff Flores.
"It’s a psychoactive drug. With parents coming in with this substance, how do we manage that and not get it in the wrong hands?" he said.
His colleague on the board, Graves, however, views that part of the bill differently. She said she would be against the bill if school personnel would have to administer the drug because they would have more work and "barely can distribute aspirin," but since a parent would be the one doing it, it "changes a lot."
She also believes if the drug were administered on a student who is experiencing a seizure on campus, for example, the parent should take them home.
"There’s no staying in school, it really wrecks them," she said. "They're not going to be able to take some marijuana and after 10 minutes think it’s going to be OK to go back to class."
When asked for comment, a Bakersfield City School District official said the district does not comment on bills, while a KHSD official said, "The Kern High School District administrative staff will continue to review and monitor the progress of Senate Bill 223. Upon passage of any changes to KHSD’s current policies regarding the bill, administration of prescribed medication would have to be approved by the KHSD Board of Trustees."
If the bill does become law, former school board member Gaby Schmidt said she fears board members will forget about the students who need that type of medication if they decide to not allow medical cannabis to be administered on school grounds.
"My son goes to middle school, and kids are vaping on the bus. That proves the point that these things are already happening," she said. "If anything, it would be regulated, there would be a policy to administer it, the parent holds the liability. Anything outside of that should be punishable."
Ultimately, Flores believes legislators are focusing on the wrong issues when it comes to education, adding, "I wish the Legislature would focus on inadequacies in our per capita funding compared to other states. We’re always in the bottom percentile and that’s the discussion I’d like instead."