Officials, Parents Must Face Teen Drug Use

Officials, Parents Must Face Teen Drug Use
Posted by FoM on June 04, 2000 at 10:20:40 PT
By Michael Gillis & James A. Kimble
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat
To curb escalating drug use among high school students, parents and officials first need to acknowledge it."As a School Board, we need to address it," said Dover School Board member Kevin Quigley. "Itís nothing to be ashamed of. But if you know you have it, and you do nothing about it, thatís worse."
Solutions are not easy, officials say, and despite the results of a controversial Teen Assessment Project survey sponsored by the Dover Coalition for Youth, there is a lot of work to be done before they can take significant action.With little effort, teens are getting drugs, a fact spelled out by the survey in which half of the School Districtís middle and high school students said marijuana is either "easy" or "very easy" to get.Although school administrators now have more rights to search for drugs on school property, police may have a harder time actually catching offenders. Students who agreed to be interviewed by Fosterís Daily Democrat on the condition of anonymity said scoring drugs at school through word of mouth is still simple, despite a resource officer being posted there for almost two years.Instead, students are more cautious and typically make arrangements for a drug buy at school and follow through with the transaction off school grounds, the teens said.That drugs are so readily available is a concern demanding attention from not only the district, but also the community, according to Superintendent Armand LaSelva.Officials intend to use the recent survey results to shape a strategy, according to Dover police Capt. Dana Mitchell.According to the survey, in which more than 1,600 middle and high school students in Dover answered questions about drugs, alcohol, sex, and a variety of social and family issues, 47 percent of the high school students admitted they used marijuana, a figure equal to the national average, but lower than the state average of 52 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Twenty-seven percent of the students said they use marijuana at least once a month, which is higher than the national average of 26 percent. Seventeen percent of the high school students who took the survey said they use marijuana once a week."The results show we need to do something," Mitchell said. "Thereís things to worry about with our kids."The report details not only how much teens are drinking, using drugs or considering suicide, but it also reveals whether depression or another cause is the motivation, according to Mitchell."The whole point of the survey is to provide information to the community and to direct them into action," he said. "Thatís the difference between this survey instrument and other surveys."Ideally, Mitchell would like to see business leaders, religious organizations, and students join the coalition so subcommittees can work on specific issues.To spark public interest, the Dover Coalition for Youth hosted a public forum May 17 at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital to release the survey results. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday in council chambers at City Hall.By September, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, which administered the Teen Assessment Project survey to students, will be sending newsletters to parents about community forums that will focus on specific issues outlined in the survey such as drug and alcohol use."We feel the drug problem is something that the community has to respond to," Mitchell said. "No one agency can respond to the drug problem ... Itís a very sophisticated problem."School Board member Nick Skaltsis said the problems highlighted in the survey are not the School Districtís alone to solve and should also draw parents into the debate."A lot of the parents are AWOL," Skaltsis said. "The district canít be a substitute parent."Whether it is the districtís problem or not, the coalition will be looking to the schools as a place to lay the groundwork for curbing drug use among students. The group was recently awarded a state incentive grant of $70,000 for the next three years.Part of that money will be spent at Dover Middle School for an alcohol prevention program developed by the University of Minnesota. Called Project Northland, it will be given to grades 6-8 starting in September. Other money will cover services provided by Healthy Universal Beginnings of Dover that target risky home situations, Mitchell said.With other programs in the school system, such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, the Youth to Youth program and HUB, Mitchell feels that Dover is fortunate some programs are already in place.Everyone ó from school officials to police and members of the Coalition for Youth ó said the community needs to take an active part in curbing drug use among the cityís youths. Yet, it remains to be seen whether it will actually happen. In essence, the success of the survey will depend on it.What the community must do now is evaluate the root causes of problems and decide how to solve them with the available resources, according to Marc Hiller, a member of the Dover Board of Health and the Dover Drug Free Coalition."We canít push a button and get a solution," said Hiller, who is also an associate professor of health management at the University of New Hampshire. Instead, Hiller, like others, said efforts to address problems must span the entire community, including parents, community leaders, schools and police departments.Somersworth High School resource officer Steve Baressi agrees. "I think parents, coupled with the school, can teach their kids about drugs and that they donít have to do this to be cool," he said.In fact, according to the Washington-based Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, mobilizing the community is critical to combating drug and alcohol abuse among teens.The organizationís Web site outlines how to do just that, including involving community leaders as well as the business community, shaping a community vision and defining strategies and goals. In addition, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America maintains that progress and results must be measured regularly.The road to recovery begins with a simple affirmation, the organization said, reiterated recently by Quigley."Thereís nothing worse than thinking your kidís taking dope or to think someone might be giving it to them."  Part 5Editors's Note: This is the final part of a five-part series on drug use by Dover High School students. A recent survey showed that Dover teens are taking drugs at a rate slightly higher than the national average. This series talks about the problem and suggested solutions.  Saturday, June 3, 2000© 2000 Geo. J. Foster Co. 1. Dover Teens Say Drugs Are Easily Obtainable How Do High School Students Get Their Drugs? Dover School Board Chairman Wants to Bring in Dogs Drug Arrest Rate in Dover Schools
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by CD1 on June 06, 2000 at 10:30:13 PT
Isn't it ironic how the teen drug use keeps going up, despite all our tax dollars being spent on inane television commercials and D.A.R.E. t-shirts? I personally oppose those under-18 using marijuana. I feel that teen marijuana use could be better controlled, if marijuana was legalized and distributed like alchohol or tobacco. Sure, there would be abuses, but I feel teen use would go down.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: