Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Kirsten Baesler promised to work closely with the State Attorney General's office to educate kids and parents about the dangers of synthetic drugs, cyber-bullying and sexting if she is elected on Tuesday.
Baesler and State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem held a press conference Thursday at Minot State University, at which Stenehjem expressed support for the proposal.
Stenehjem said synthetic drugs in particular have become a major concern for his office. Two teenagers died recently this year after using synthetic drugs in Grand Forks, and Stenehjem said emergency room doctors and schools across the state have indicated there is a problem with use of the drugs, which are not always illegal and are sold at head shops and other locations. They are chemically laced substances. Substituted cathinones, commonly called bath salts, contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of methamphetamine or cocaine. Synthetic cannibanoids, commonly known as K2 or spice, are chemically formulated versions of synthetic marijuana that consist of lab-manufactured THC.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem holds up synthetic drugs like those that are sold in stores across the state. He said they are dangerous and is seeking to get legislation passed making them illegal, regardless of their chemical composition.
Stenehjem said they can be cooked up in homes and that a product sold at stores in Grand Forks and Minot that have the same label do not necessarily have the same chemical make-up. Some emergency rooms report that patients who have overdosed on synthetic drugs appear a few times a week. Crime labs have a hard time identifying the make-up of some of the synthetic drugs.
Stenehjem said he drafted a bill that will be considered during the upcoming legislative session that will hopefully close loopholes in the law and make the synthetic drugs illegal, regardless of chemical makeup.
Baesler has a background as a teacher, assistant principal and library media specialist in the Bismarck Public Schools and as president of the Mandan school board and southwest director of the North Dakota School Boards Association. She said one problem with some anti-drug programs is that they emphasize legal and illegal drugs. Kids need to understand that some drugs that are not illegal are still dangerous, she said. She said if she's elected she would seek to make the Department of Public Instruction a statewide clearinghouse providing information about best practices in educating kids on the dangerousness of synthetic drugs, as well as the dangers of drinking and illegal drug use. Other risky behaviors, like bullying other teens on internet social networks, and sending nude photos of themselves via cell phone, will also be discussed. She promised she would get input from school districts that have successful programs.
Baesler's opponent is Tracy Potter, executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation.