As a parent and resident of Norristown borough, I see first hand the impacts of drugs in our community. Drugs, including marijuana, are negatively impacting our children and our schools. At the February 27, 2023, Norristown Area School District board meeting, students addressed the board about concerns with students vaping and smoking marijuana in the bathrooms. I listened while they spoke about a school filled with smoke and vaping haze.
Despite these concerns, board vice president, Monica D’Antonio, has taken a very strong and public stance on the legalization of marijuana. Parents spoke out at the most recent board meeting on March 27, 2023, about her social media posts that allegedly contain profanity and feature her wearing a t-shirt with the words “legal weed” and two marijuana leaves. Parents raised additional concerns that included posts that were deemed inappropriate behavior, cultural misappropriation, offensive, and racist.
This is not the first time that parents have spoken out regarding concerns about D’Antonio’s social media presence. Parents addressed the school board back on October 25, 2021, with similar issues. Yet, shortly after that meeting, she was voted in as the vice president of the board.
After the March 27, 2023, meeting, D’Antonio responded to parents by stating, “I have never been quiet about my support for legalization of marijuana…. I will not apologize for my stance on this issue.”
She made this statement despite the fact that possession, use, sale or distribution of a controlled substance is against school district policy. Moreover, the negative effects of marijuana use for adolescents are staggering. The CDC notes the negative impacts of marijuana use for teens includes difficulty thinking and problem-solving, problems with memory and learning, reduced coordination, difficulty maintaining attention, and problems with school and social life. Adolescents who frequently use marijuana are also at risk for increased mental health issues and potential for addiction.
D’Antonio elaborated on her statement further. “Far too many Americans are losing their lives sitting in prison on non-violent drug offenses – including basic marijuana possession. This mass incarceration predominately impacts black and brown communities, communities exactly like ours. Marijuana legalization and expungement for marijuana crimes helps to restore the lives of so many in our community. I won’t apologize for my stance on this issue.”
As a black woman, I share the concerns about the mass incarceration of many in our community. However, I do not share D’Antonio’s view that legalization is the answer. Marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to addiction problems, particularly for adolescents. If she is truly concerned about the high numbers of minorities in prison for marijuana use, she could advocate for decriminalization as opposed to legalization.
Decriminalization is a very different stance than legalization — one that D’Antonio does not seem to understand. If she truly cares about our students, as the board vice president, she must understand the detrimental impact that legalization of marijuana could have on our community. How can we teach our children that marijuana use is not healthy when our board vice president is loudly campaigning for legalizing the drug?
At the last board meeting, multiple parents called for D’Antonio’s resignation based on her very public stance on this issue. She has not resigned and refuses to apologize for her posts, behavior, or advocacy.
Norristown Area School District — and our children — deserve better than Monica D’Antonio. I have talked with many children and parents in our community who are plagued by marijuana use. We cannot have members of our board advocating for the legalization of a drug that is wreaking havoc in our schools.
Lisa Licwinko-Engleman is a resident of Norristown, a mother to five children, a step-mother to two children, and a registered Democrat. All of her children either attend Norristown Area School District schools or graduated from Norristown Area High School. She is a candidate for school board and is cross-filed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.