Kathleen Riebe, State School Board District 10

Why did you decide to run for public office?

I felt compelled to run when I discovered that the State School Board had no teachers and prior to this year they were selected. A lawsuit changed the selection to an election. Teachers need to be a voice at the table when creating educational policy.

What is your background? Profession, skills, etc.? 

Educational Technology Specialist in Granite School District. I have been teaching in Utah classrooms for 15 years. I have a Master’s in Education, an endorsement in Technology and a certificate in education administration. SLCO Education caucus chair and Granite Education Association vice president

What is your general experience with drug policy and substance abuse? 

Drug policy and substance abuse impacts our students. I have worked with elementary school students, and the ability to get to school and be ready to learn when their families are struggling with substance dependency is monumental. Students living with grandparents because parents are incarcerated or can't find programs to assist in recovery is a terrible problem. Education and support will assist in breaking the cycle of substance abuse. Policies aimed towards recovery should facilitate the change we want to see, and be easier for families to implement.

Do you support the creation of a medical cannabis program? Can you expand upon your general feelings about medical cannabis?

I do support medical cannabis program. Medical cannabis would assist many in living a pain free life and would alleviate the opioid addiction we encounter with over-the-counter synthetic medications. Research needs to continue to ensure the safety and dosage, but to ignore the benefits for seizures and pain is unfortunate.

What steps would you take to reduce the number of overdose deaths? Do you have any personal experiences with overdose?

I do have personal experiences with overdose. Like many, a loved one died from using heroin. The stigma attached caused the family to state it was a heart attack. I would make programs and support systems more available for those trying to enter recovery. We need to support the family with wrap around services. Education is paramount in helping families know they are not alone and assisting them through the process.

Do you agree with this analysis? Please feel free to elaborate.

I agree. In schools you watch children go through the system with their parents. Fines, jail time and court appearances are punitive and unnecessarily harsh to people who are struggling to keep jobs and pay their bills. The system further entraps them into a feeling of despair that exasperates the problems instead of leading to recovery.

Are you familiar with the principle of harm reduction? Do you have any experience with harm reduction policies? Please feel free to elaborate.

Harm reduction at an elementary level is what was called the dare program and having students familiar with a police officer. This attempt is a poor substitute for comprehensive education thorough out all school levels. Police officers are not trained teachers and as you watch them try to relate to the students, some are okay, but in our rougher areas they are not seen as an advocate.  Educators, social workers and psychologists need to be on the front line, they are the trained professionals.

What are your general thoughts on the decriminalization of cannabis? Please elaborate.

I support decriminalization of cannabis, and agree that our resources could be better used.

Are you interested in sponsoring drug policy reform legislation if you were elected? What would be some specific areas of focus or interest for you?

I would support drug policy reform. I would like to see wrap around services for the students that are impacted by substance abuse at home; education to break the cycle of substance abuse. 

Anything else?

Drug policy should be reformed to meet the needs of current issues. Our policies are out of date and punitive to the population that needs support. In a society where information and access is readily available we should be more cognizant of the disconnect. Our students have easier access and information to engage instead of disengage in potentially life altering activities. One misstep should not side line their opportunities. These events in their lives take years and money to overcome, and for many the process is insurmountable creating apathy towards the whole system.