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District 49 BOE Approves Colorado’s First School Cannabinoid Policy

Marie LaVere-Wright The District 49 Board of Education approved May 12 the first school district policy in Colorado to allow the therapeutic administration of cannabinoid products on school property.

BOE Policy JLCDB, Compassionate Administration of Therapeutic Cannabinoid Products on District Property, is the first school or school district policy in Colorado to permit cannabinoid products, according to Colorado Association of School Boards.

The policy, known as “Jaxs’ policy,” was approved unanimously, 5-0, as part of a regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Sand Creek High School 11th-grader Jackson “Jaxs” Stormes, 16, was suspended in May 2015 for carrying cannabis oil to school as a seizure treatment. Jaxs suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy, as well as Juvenile Parkinson’s Disease.

“He has seizures pretty much every day,” says mother Jennie Stormes.

Jennie Stormes “In the last 16 years, he has failed 62 different drug combinations, two brain surgeries, he’s had the VNS (vagus nerve stimulation) implanted three different times, and he’s also been on the modified diet treatment, which is the ketogenic diet, he’s been on that three different times, for a total of six years total. … In 2012, we pretty much ran out of options.”

“We started cannabis, and almost immediately he did better,” says Stormes. “His seizures were in better control. He was just starting to thrive and do so much better.”

Students with severe medical needs now have a pathway to continue cannabis treatment during the school day.

“This process began firmly rooted in the cultural values of respect and care for one of our students,” said Marie LaVere-Wright, District 49 Board of Education president. “His struggle to balance his medical need for cannabinoid oil with attending school represented a struggle faced by approximately 40 other students in our district.”

“This policy is not about District 49 deciding what is an acceptable medical treatment,” said LaVere-Wright. “Jaxs’ policy is about respecting the decision of a child's parent and physician.”

“Ultimately this policy is about our District 49 family taking care of its kids,” she said. Only a parent, guardian or emergency contact over 18 may administer cannabinoid products to a qualified student. School personnel are not permitted to administer or store products.

With a doctor’s recommendation, students may only receive non-inhalable forms at school. The permissible products are intended to allow quick ingestion and extended release.

The permissible forms include oils, tinctures, edible products, patches or lotions. With a signed administration plan for a student, his or her treatment may only be administered in approved locations on school property.

Any cannabinoid product intended for recreational use is not permitted. Violations of the policy may lead to disciplinary action, including recommendations for suspension or expulsion, in accordance with all applicable policies.

“In designing this policy we were careful to meet the needs of students whose lives have changed because of cannabinoid therapy, while ensuring the safety of all our learners,” said Peter Hilts, District 49 chief education officer.

To be qualified under the policy, a student must have a valid registration from the state of Colorado for the use of cannabinoid products, a written statement from a parent or guardian that assumes responsibility for the administration and releases the district from liability of any injury that the therapy may cause.

A written plan that identifies the form, location and protocol must be signed by the school nurse, school administrator, the qualified student (if capable), and a parent or guardian, before any administration can occur.

‘A year in the making’

“Jaxs’ policy is a year in the making,” said Hilts. “It has been crafted carefully and deliberately.” As part of a collaborative community process, District 49 officials have solicited feedback from families, and published a landing page at D49.org/PolicyPolls.

The district’s website provided the latest policy draft, links to district-hosted social media discussions, and videos explaining family testimonials and various BOE discussions.

In April, several hundred community members responded to a poll on Facebook, where 88.1-percent were in approval. The dozens of comments and other interactions affirmed overwhelming community support, many showing solidarity with the impacted families.

Jaxs’ policy contains a provision to protect the more than $7 million the district receives from the federal government each year.

“If the federal government requests that the district cease and desist execution of activities under this policy, at the hazard of losing federal funding, we will comply immediately,” said Hilts.
Matt Meister
mmeister@d49.org
719.495.1151