Courage of conviction – Student caps speech with pot smoke

June 5th, 2009 – TACOMA, Wash. — The teachers wanted persuasive. And they got it.
Picture 13At the end of his speech Tuesday urging legalization of marijuana, a 17-year-old Peninsula High School student pulled out a joint, lit it and smoked away. Then he ate the remains.

For that he got a quick escort to the school office and then a ride to Remann Hall juvenile jail.

The stunt was celebrated among some of the teen’s peers but was frowned on to say the least by law enforcement officers and district administrators.

“We believe in freedom of speech and encourage it, but illegal activities are absolutely not going to be tolerated in our district,” schools Superintendent Terry Bouck said.

Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said, “If people want that law changed, they need to go about it the right way.”

He did acknowledge, though, that the student’s action will prompt discussion.

“It sure will probably bring a lot of attention to the issue,” Troyer said.

The boy, whom the News Tribune is not identifying because he has not been charged with a crime, was arrested on suspicion of unlawful drug possession, a misdemeanor.

He later was released.

Deputies will forward their reports to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file charges.

Bouck declined to say what disciplinary action was taken against the student but reiterated that illegal activity is not tolerated at a school.

The trouble started when the student — who has a 3.7 grade point average — presented his essay Tuesday morning during a monthly gathering called “Rhetoric Revels,” which celebrates student work in English classes.

“It’s really a vehicle for showcasing students’ work,” Bouck said.

The students present their assignments in class first, then turn them in for grading. A selection of the assignments is chosen for presentation during the monthly gatherings.

The English department has had this tradition for the past 10 years with no problem.

That is until Tuesday.

Three 11th grade English classes were gathered for this month’s readings. The students had written their persuasive speeches a couple of weeks ago and turned them in without endings.

The students selected to present Tuesday were to read the conclusions to their speeches. They spoke in the schools large assembly hall before an audience estimated at 120 to 150 people.

The 17-year-old boy made his case for the legalization of marijuana and then went for a big finish.

“At the end of his speech, he pulled out a marijuana joint, lit it and began to smoke it,” Bouck said.

Officials brought the student to the office, “where appropriate action was taken,” Bouck said, declining to elaborate. Then it was off to juvie jail.

One student present for the teen’s speech said it was eloquent, well argued and sincerely moved many students.

“The student was making a statement towards (what he felt as) the arbitrary taboo our society places on marijuana use,” the 17-year-old junior stated in a comment on The News Tribune’s Web site. “He took action in what he believes. … I do not condone the action, but I commend the passion.”


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