Safety check: Administrators work to keep drugs out of schools

June 2016 Posted in News, School

By Kristine Thomas

Silverton High School Assistant Principal Jodi Drescher and Kennedy High School Principal Sean Aker are keenly aware of the problem.

On both high school campuses, there have been indications some students are attending school under the influence of an illegal drug or alcohol or selling/buying drugs on campus.

“While it’s here, it’s not overtaking the school,” Drescher said.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst, Drescher rates the drug problem at SHS a 4 to 5, while Aker said the drug problem at KHS is a 3. Both administrators said alcohol and marijuana tend to be what some students are using, along with abuse of prescription drugs.

With the goal of making high school a safe place for everyone, both administrators are taking steps to ensure that happens.

“Students and staff members should not have to worry about someone being under the influence or selling drugs on school grounds,” Drescher said. “I want to make sure that’s not happening.”

On Friday, May 27, the police officers from Keizer, Woodburn, Stayton and Silverton Police departments and Marion County Sheriff’s Office conducted a drug search of Silverton High School. Drescher said the search was prearranged with law enforcement officials, who brought in four drug sniffing dogs. Although the dogs got more than 10 hits – meaning they detected the smell of a drug on an item – no drugs were found on school grounds. Two students, however, reportedly had LSD in their possession, took it and were sent home with their parents.

Drescher said the school resource officer, staff members and herself have noticed suspicious behaviors that are indicative of possible drug use. She said she has observed behavior that indicated drugs were being sold on campus.

Drescher emphasized it is illegal to possess or use drugs on school grounds. With marijuana becoming legal in the state of Oregon, Drescher said the drug is more readily available for students.

“I think the attitude has changed about using marijuana and some students consider using it the same as alcohol,” Drescher said.

What may surprise some community members is the informants are often the students, Drescher said.

“For the most part, kids are pretty honest. They will come to us and report a friend who smells of marijuana,” Drescher said. “They don’t do it to get the person in trouble but they report the problem because they genuinely care about the student.”

Generally, students use drugs to escape the realities of their life or to self-medicate, Drescher said, adding she has seen an increase in anxiety in students.

Drescher said if a student admits to being under the influence of a drug, the student is required to take drug and alcohol assessment.

“We will tell students there are consequences for using at school but the consequences are not the end of the world,” Drescher said. “We work with parents and we ask the student to follow what is set forth on the drug and alcohol assessment.”

Drescher added the assessment is done by an agency such as Bridgeway. The overall goal is to provide the student with the help he or she needs, she added.

A student who admits to being under the influence while on campus will face a suspension, while a student who gets caught for selling or buying drugs on campus will face expulsion, she said.

Drescher said it is across the board on who is using drugs – from freshmen to seniors. “It all depends on who they hang with and who their peer group is,” she said.

JFK Principal Sean Aker said he and his staff look at student behavior and student data to identify trends that may indicate a student is using drugs.

When he receives a valid report and there is probable cause a student is using or selling drugs on campus, Aker said there is a search of all areas pertaining to the situation. For the 2015-16 school year, Aker said there have been two searches, adding he has dealt with only a few incidents of alledged drug use this year.

“Students with whom we’ve intervened do not seem to think it is a big deal,” Aker said. “They cannot see the long range outcomes of their violations. Students using have reported to self-medicate, indicating dependency.”

Aker said students and staff at JFK care about the well-being of one another.

“Although we have a zero tolerance policy and those caught using will be recommended for expulsion, we will continue to provide for the needs of all of our students, in or out of the building,” Aker said.

Signs a student may be using drugs

With summer break, both Aker and Drescher said parents need to know where there children are, who they are spending time with, and make clear their expectations on using drugs or alcohol.

If a parent suspects a child is using drugs, Drescher said they should look for a change in behavior that can range from irritability to aggressiveness to lack of motivation. “Some parents might say, ‘Well, that is every teenager,’ but parents know their children and know if something is off,” Drescher added.

Parents should also look for signs such as a student who has a job but no money or items to show for where money is being spent and a change in peer group.

If parents are concerned their child is using drugs, Aker recommends parents contact their medical professional or Marion County Division of Mental Health. “I would strongly dissuade parents from turning to the Internet or social media, as many times the information obtained is worse-case scenario or general at best,” Aker said.

The more a student feels connected to school, the less likely they are to use drugs, Drescher said.

“Keep your children busy through sports, working, chores and volunteering to avoid giving them idle time,” Aker said.

“Be an example,” he added. “Your kids will reflect your behaviors, the bad and the good.”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.