Dover Teens Say Drugs Are Easily Obtainable

Dover Teens Say Drugs Are Easily Obtainable
Posted by FoM on May 30, 2000 at 13:40:40 PT
First of five-part series
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat
While the School Board and Police Department differ on the breadth of drug use by the student body, Dover High School students say drugs are easily obtainable ó if not in the schools, then in the city.Police have made 12 arrests in 16 drug cases at the high school since September, according to school resource officer Wayne Sheehan.
Four of the arrests resulted in felony charges for distribution or possession. All involved teen-aged boys and no repeat offenders. Five cases resulted in expulsion from school, according to Superintendent Armand LaSelva.According to the Teen Assessment Program survey, in which more than 1,600 middle and high school students in Dover answered questions in November about drugs, alcohol, sex and a variety of social and family issues, 47 percent of the high school students admitted to using marijuana. This figure is equal to the national average, but lower than the state average of 52 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.However, 27 percent of the students said they use marijuana at least once a month or more, which is higher than the national average of 26 percent. Seventeen percent of high school students who took the survey said they use marijuana at least once a week."People want to say we donít have a problem," said School Board member Kevin Quigley. "We do.""Drug-related expulsions have increased every year," said School Board Chairman Marc Vaillancourt.Based on student interviews and recent statistics, marijuana is clearly the drug of choice for high school students. Sheehan has dealt with students bold enough to arrive at school high or drunk."The kids Iíve encountered that admitted they smoked (marijuana) said they smoked off campus, then came to school," Sheehan said.Dover Police Chief William Fenniman said he believes the amount of drug use at Dover High School is low, and arrests have become prevalent because teachers are reporting incidents to Sheehan, an option they did not have in the past."What our statistics show is that usage in school is less than national figures and lower than the average in the state," he said. "Thatís what our surveys show."Fenniman bases that assessment on years of surveys such as one conducted by the New Hampshire Teen Institute and the Teen Assessment Program survey, which is also known as the TAP survey and was sponsored by the Dover Coalition for Youth and administered by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Both surveys poll students about their drug use, but do not record arrest rates at schools.The most significant drug arrest this school year came Feb. 18 when school officials found four to five "dime bags" of marijuana on a 15-year-old boy, who police said had clearly brought it to school for distribution. Dime bags are approximately one-sixteenth of an ounce of marijuana and sell for about $20 each.In the past decade, police have taken a hard line on substance abuse in public schools. Even students caught smoking cigarettes wind up in court paying a fine or being sentenced to community service. Possession of drug paraphernalia at the high school is treated as severely as having drugs.Several students found that out earlier in the year when they were charged with possession of a controlled substance for allegedly passing around a marijuana "bowl," or pipe, while sitting in the cafeteria. Filing charges against the students was mandatory because of the pot residue found inside the pipe, according to Sheehan.Those arrests helped to serve as a deterrent, according to Dover High School Principal Robert Pedersen. "When kids see that, they slow down," he said.This is Sheehanís second year at the high school.Police Capt. Dana Mitchell said teachers are speaking up about possible illegal activity because they know Sheehan is in the building."The kids are starting to come to me," Sheehan said. "The good kids who say they donít want it there." Last year, there were 22 drug offenses reported at the high school. Sheehan issued 95 to 100 hand summons for cigarette smoking last year. "Iím lucky if I wrote 15 this year," he said.Administrators are quick to point out that despite the numbers, the problem is not exclusive to Dover."The problem exists everywhere," Pedersen said, who added that his school is vigilant about drug use and possession on school grounds. "Thereís not a whole lot going on under our noses without us discovering it. We are not going to look the other way."Pedersen said Doverís policy is tough and unforgiving.Students caught with drugs for "personal use" are directed to the resource officer and suspended from school. A second offense earns them an expulsion.Students believed to be dealing drugs are brought before the School Board for an expulsion hearing, according to LaSelva, citing a board policy. If a drug transaction is prevented, the seller is usually expelled and the buyer suspended.LaSelva agrees there is a problem in Dover, but is unsure of the severity. "In reality, Iím not sure we have a problem more severe than any other place," the superintendent said.He suspects the problemís roots are outside of the high school and begin with other substance abuse, especially the use of alcohol. In addition, he said the community needs to address the problem, not the schools exclusively.Even so, administrators say having a resource officer stationed at the school has helped expose and address the problem.New Hampshireís demographics are changing. Small towns and close-knit neighborhoods are now fighting to curb new housing and development springing up to meet the demand of out-of-staters relocating to New Hampshire. Some move here for jobs, others want to start a family and find good schools for their children."We get a lot of calls because of our Web site wanting to know about the district," said Oyster River Cooperative School District Superintendent Tom Carroll. "Frequently we get them from all over the country."The same can be said for Dover, where the majority of new homes are priced at more than $250,000 ó a contemporary phenomenon, according to city Planning Director Steve Stancel.As Strafford County grows, so does local drug use."I told the Board of Selectmen in my town Iíve seen more heroin in the last three years than Iíve seen in the last 31 years of police work," Lee Police Chief Brian Burke said last fall in an appeal to county delegates for more jail space.Sheehanís first arrest of the year at the high school, made Sept. 22, demonstrated how daring some students can be when they want to score drugs. A 15-year-old, caught red-handed by the school nurse, was trying to steal Ritalin from her supply while she was in her office.Two days later, police netted three other students for marijuana possession. Two 15-year-old boys were caught during the school day while the third boy, a 17-year-old, was nabbed by Dover Detective David Sundburg at a school dance. Another arrest Nov. 17 led to an investigation that netted five students who possessed either Ritalin or marijuana."I think on some level some of the kids we catch want to get caught," Sheehan said when asked why students risk bringing drugs to school. "I think to myself why they would want to get caught ... it could be some kind of cry for help."Some of them are good kids, he added, not what you would expect. The chief added that the drug of choice for many is marijuana."Very few use inhalants ... whatís most abused is alcohol," he said.Teen use of alcohol increases each year, from about 27 percent in seventh grade to 80 percent of 12th-grade boys and 74 percent of 12th-grade girls, according to the TAP survey.Monthly use is lower, but it also increases each year. About 60 percent of senior boys and 46 percent of senior girls claimed they drink alcohol once a month or more.Sixty-one percent of the Dover middle and high school students said they have used alcohol.The amount of binge drinking ó consuming at least five drinks at one sitting ó is much higher in Dover than the national and state averages.Sheehan talks with students daily, and is friendly with many of them who describe drug use in the cityís only public high school."Iíve heard that kids are using acid. But Iíve had no indication in my experience that thatís the case," Sheehan said. "I spent 15 or 16 months working undercover narcotics. Iím not saying itís not happening. Sometimes kids might be talking a big game, too."A big game or not, kids are talking, and they say drugs are readily available at weekend parties, on the street, and even at school.Editor's Note: This series on drug use by Dover High School students was prompted by a recent survey showing that Dover teens are taking drugs at a rate slightly higher than the national average. This series talks about the problem and suggested solutions.Tomorrow: Part 2 - Dover teens say drug use statistics in the recent Teen Assessment Project survey are actually conservative. They claim drug use is commonplace among high school students. By Michael Gillis & James A. Kimble, Democrat Staff WritersWeb Posted: May 30, 2000© 2000 Geo. J. Foster Co. Related Articles:Drugs Bring Police to East Valley High Schools on Drugs Kids' Drug Of Choice View Next 20 Articles:
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