Santa Monica High School has canceled a series of planned assemblies presented by The Foundation for a Drug-Free World after concerned parents learned of the non-profit’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology.

The foundation had already conducted three assemblies for 9th and 10th grade students when the controversy reached a breaking point, causing the principal to cancel the next two assemblies in the series.

“Samohi principal Dr. Antonio Shelton fully vetted this organization and felt that it would be excellent for our students,” Spokesperson Gail Pinsker told the Daily Press in a statement. “The presentations and materials do not have any reference or mention of Scientology, or else we would not be using this organization.”

In March, a Samohi freshman died when he jumped from a third floor balcony after trying the drug LSD. Dr. Shelton said concerns over the foundation’s affiliation were a distraction from the important topic at hand: keeping more teens away from drugs.

The Church of Scientology sent a statement to the Daily Press in response to questions about the cancelation:

“The Church of Scientology is saddened to hear that religious discrimination would stand in the way of saving young lives. The Church is a proud sponsor of the Drug-Free World education program which has helped millions of young people to learn the truth about drugs and how to live a drug-free life. One would think that the tragic death of a student from LSD would be enough to set aside bigotry when there is evidence-based information that is invaluable, free of charge and provided out of good will and open hearts.”

The Church says a Samohi parent brought the assemblies to the school, adding volunteers for the foundation come from all faiths.

Local agencies will now conduct future assemblies at Samohi, including the City, Santa Monica Police Department, CLARE Foundation, Venice Family Clinic and Providence SaintJohn’s Health Center.

Half of Samohi juniors reported substance or alcohol use over the past month in a 2014 survey, with 33 percent of those students admitting to binge drinking, according to the Youth Wellbeing report card.  The survey found Santa Monica drink alcohol at a higher rate than students in LAUSD.

kate@smdp.com

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