When Jessica was 12 years old she was an A student who played sports at a school in Winnipeg's south end, but by the time she was in Grade 8 she was getting high every day at school.

On her 14th birthday she bought her first hit of cocaine at her school.

"I was sent to school with money to go shopping. Kids were starting to get into coke so I bought it off someone," she said.

"After the first time I snorted it I didn't care who [saw] me do it, or where I did it. I even got into snorting meth right by the cafeteria in my school."

'Just recently my friend walked into the washroom to some girls snorting cocaine. They just packed up the cocaine and left.' - Grade 12 student

CBC News can't legally identify Jessica or her school because her addictions forced her parents to put her in the care of Child and Family Services to get the help she needed.

She's now 16 and living in a treatment centre, but students from schools all over Winnipeg tell CBC Jessica's story doesn't shock them.

"Just recently my friend walked into the washroom to some girls snorting cocaine," said a Grade 12 student from another school.

"They just packed the cocaine up and left."

Rise of drug use

The 2008 Manitoba Student Alcohol and Drug Use Survey shows that four per cent of Grade 7 students reported using pot in the past year. By Grade 9 that number jumped to 19 per cent and it goes up to 28 per cent for Grade 10 students.

Teens say by far the easiest drug to get at school is marijuana.

"Usually there were two, maybe three kids who would get drugs outside of school and sell the drugs within the rest of the school," said a recent graduate from a south Winnipeg school.

"You'd usually just walk over to the smoker door and ask, 'does anyone have some weed?'

"You'd either get a bag of weed, like a gram, or you'd go blaze with someone."

In some cases it can be even easier than that. Jessica said that before she'd ever tried cocaine, she and a friend were offered pot when she joined a group of kids smoking cigarettes outside her suburban school.

"Because we were the new girls in the group we got a lot of attention. We were both really pretty girls so all the guys wanted to get us high."

The Winnipeg School Division has yet to provide figures requested by CBC News on drug-related incidents at schools in their district. But a 2012 U.S.-based study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse called Monitoring the Future, shows an increase in the number of teenagers smoking marijuana in the past five years.

The 2008 Manitoba Student Alcohol and Drug Use Survey shows that 22 percent of students reported past-year pot use.

'Everyday occurrence'

Students tell CBC News that kids are showing up high to class on a daily basis.

"I'd say it's an everyday occurrence. You always have someone coming in high or hearing about it," said a Grade 12 student from a centrally-located school in the Winnipeg School Division.

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She said the kids doing the drugs aren't afraid to announce that they're high at school.

Teens also told stories of students smoking so much marijuana they would vomit at school.

"I knew maybe four people who had 'greened out' in the cafeteria," said a recent graduate.

Another told the story of a Grade 12 boy vomiting in gym class in the first week at school after smoking too much marijuana. She said the teacher asked him to leave class and he spent the rest of the period vomiting into a garbage can in the hallway.

Students say there's not much teachers can do when confronted with a student who is high.

"Most of them don't say anything or they will ask students to settle down. Or they'll kick them out," said one student.

"Most of the kids here know their boundaries and know not to get caught."

President of the Manitoba Teachers Society, Paul Olson, agrees that recognizing a student is high can be tough.

"Depending on the quality of the acting going on, it may not be something that any reasonable adult working with 30 or 40 students at a time would be expected to notice," he said.

Teachers look the other way

But there is also a perception among students of leniency when it comes to marijuana.

"Sometimes it would smell really bad in the classroom," said a recent graduate. "The teachers all kind of just knew and didn't bother with it."

'The last thing to do is ignore it. If they know you care, that reaches them.' - Douglas Taylor, principal of St John's High School

Douglas Taylor, principal of St John's High School, said drugs have been an issue at every school he's worked at in every part of the city.

Those schools include Kelvin high school, Grant Park high school, David Livingston (nursery to grade 8) and Andrew Mynarski VC junior high school.

But he challenges the students' impression that teachers are looking the other way.

"The last thing to do is ignore it," said Taylor. "If they know you care, that reaches them."

He said teachers should report their suspicions to their principal and an investigation should follow. Parents would be contacted and locker and backpack searches are possible.

"Many times we would involve the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba," he said.

When Taylor worked at Andrew Mynarski the school created its own program  to deal with kids who were found doing drugs. They would be suspended and before that they were allowed to return to school, they would meet with counsellors and resource people to talk about their drug use.

"You have to show them this isn't just a slap on the wrist, " said Taylor.

Drugs seen as less risky than before

Recent discussions by politicians and the police about the decriminalization of marijuana have also muddied the waters when it comes to dealing with the drug at school.

Students may not see drugs as being as risky as they once seemed.

The 2012 Monitoring the Future report shows that as perceived risk of using marijuana goes down among students, pot use goes up.

Students agree that fears around drug use are declining and kids are starting to experiment at a younger age.

"There's a lot of people going out trying E (ectasy) on the weekends but they're starting in Grade 9," said one teen. "When I was 14 I wasn't thinking about drugs. But now my brother, who is two years younger than me, he's 14, and he has friends starting to drink and smoke weed and all these things.

"And that really weirded me out because it's only a two-year gap and already it's starting younger and younger."

Big jump from Grade 7 to 8

Statistics show there is a big increase in marijuana use between Grades 7 and 9.

The 2008 Manitoba Student Alcohol and Drug Use Survey shows that four per cent of Grade 7 students reported using pot in the past year. By Grade 9 that number jumped to 19 per cent and it goes up to 28 per cent for Grade 10 students.

By Grade 12, 33 per cent of students said they'd used marijuana in the past year.

Some students say they would like to see more done to deal with the problem of drugs in schools.

"I think we need to have stricter rules. There needs to be consequences. I feel like the schools are too slack on discipline and I think it's because they don't want kids dropping out of school," said one Grade 12 student.

She's got a message for her classmates who come to school high and disrupt class: "I've got the mentality that I don't care what you do, I'm here to learn, to get to university. If you don't want to do that I'm not going to judge you but when you take away from my learning time that's not cool."