Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicken Little and Drug Use in Schools

“Chicken Little,” the dubious children’s fable of a hysterical chicken running hither and yon, yelling that the “sky is falling,” represents, to some degree, the level of hysteria and fear-mongering that can come about when things are blown out of proportion.
In the past week, at our high school and throughout the district, fears were raised when it was announced in the media that a student at BCHS was arrested for selling methadone to two other students, and kids were rushed to the hospital. Realizing that this was a serious situation, the high school principal and I felt that we needed to send a note home to the school-community regarding this situation, sooner rather than later. Our purpose in doing so was to inform parents of the seriousness of this issue, and to ask families to hold those difficult conversations with their kids about drugs, and potential abuse.
You might say that we received some angry responses from some parents that our letter was tantamount to a “chicken little” response and that “kids will be kids,” or that the school is at fault for turning its head to the issue that has been prevalent in the school for many years, “so why do anything about it now?”
Fueling the media rush even more is the Time Union blog on the subject that has been focused on smearing the school district’s reputation and selling more newsprint, rather than holding a serious discussion of the issues plaguing kids throughout the region, or the YNN news team confronting parents and students on the school campus to drum up even more hysteria.
The purpose of this posting today is to set the record straight and provide information for the school-community:
1) We had a series of drug busts and issues where some students were held accountable by enforcement of the Student Code of Conduct as well as charges being processed by the legal authorities of the county.
2) DARE programs at the elementary level have been important in promulgating understanding to the seriousness of alcohol and drug abuse. Unfortunately, as students get older, access to drugs and alcohol are easier.
So, what is a school district to do when children are allowed to use drugs and alcohol throughout the community? How do we manage to teach and re-teach the ideas that drugs and alcohol are dangerous, inhibitive, and harmful to their health, welfare and safety?
1) Parents need to be actively involved with their children about these issues, as well as the school district. Having regular conversations, checking their clothes, backpacks, and personal effects is not an invasion of privacy, as much as it is a monitoring of their safety and welfare.
2) Be concerned about your child’s social activities, and whom they are meeting with afterschool and on the weekends. Be interested in what they are doing when they are not home.
3) If you notice signs that there may be drug use, work with your family doctor or the school counselor for advice and direction. Allow others to work with you to get your child back on course. Don’t sweep it under the carpet or turn a blind eye to what could evolve into an episode of personal destruction.
For now, the district will be intensifying efforts to proactively supervise and manage a difficult situation through enforcement of school rules and regulations, continued education of the student body to reinforce the seriousness of drugs and alcohol abuse, and to provide information as to what the district is attempting to do in keeping our students safe.
For those people that think these issues are nothing more than “kids being kids,” remember, that when a student is suspended from school for an extended period of time for this infraction, or has a police record that follows him into adulthood, or overdoses on a controlled substance, it will be too late to say “let kids be kids!”