Prevention Needed For Drug Problem

Posted on February 7, 2012

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Editorial | Frank Vitale

“Wait, you don’t drink?  Do you smoke?  Weed, I mean…”
Surprisingly enough, this dialogue pops up more often than not when my peers ask me if I’ve ever tried alcohol or smoked marijuana.  The answer to both is no: I haven’t tried alcohol or marijuana, and by virtue, I do not drink nor smoke.  And legally, neither should you.
There is a huge drug problem at Springfield, and it is affecting every aspect of this school’s environment, from school spirit to academic achievement to athletic success.  It spans social and economic classes, grade levels, social cliques, and the academic tracking system.  It is to the point where, in many of my classes, the number of drug-users outweighs the number of drug-free individuals.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the legal drinking age is 21.  The use of Cannabis is also illegal, regardless of age.  The use of tobacco products is illegal for minors without parental consent and supply.  However, that has yet to stop many Springfield students from the use of these drugs.  For those that want to stop me and argue that alcohol is not a drug, let me refer you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which lists alcohol as, “one of the most widely used drug substances.”
Alcohol and drug use is unfortunately part of the social fabric of the American culture.  Teenagers everywhere have embraced this, and Springfield’s teens are no exception.  One look at the music played at Prom 2011 will show that references to drug and alcohol use were as blatant and plentiful as the amount of sexual “dancing” present.
Students at Springfield aren’t shy to let you know that they use drugs either.  It comes up so often in normal conversation that our teachers have begun warning students that their conversations are not appropriate for school.
So just how bad is it?  Well, an accurate survey of the students at Springfield is impossible, as most will not admit to using any illegal substance on record.  However, I would venture a guess and say that probably 65 to 75 percent of students have tried alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.  Regular alcohol use by students probably runs around 55 percent, and regular tobacco and marijuana use is mostly likely around the 35 to 45 percent range.
My numbers are just estimates.  Dispute them all you want.  What cannot be disputed is the fact that multiple students have been caught drinking, smoking, or using marijuana on campus.  More evidence can be found by listening to the conversations of the students at Springfield.  In a single class of mine, I overheard at least 10 students talking about “getting wasted” at a party the previous weekend.
What surprises me most, though, is that a drive around Oreland or Wyndmoor can reveal students openly smoking and drinking in community parks, near churches, and down side streets.
The school district and the high school need to dramatically step up their efforts to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol among students.  I believe that the D.A.R.E. Program, which has a separate branch dedicated specifically to high school environments, should be implemented at STHS immediately.
Bag checks and breathalyzer tests also need to be implemented, and should occur regularly throughout the school year, and at all school- and district- sponsored events.  Many argue that this won’t keep students from sneaking drugs into the building, but it will act as a deterrent.  Additionally, it will increase the security of the building.  Think of it this way: if someone can smuggle weed or alcohol into the school by just slipping it into their bag, what keeps them from slipping in a handgun along with it?
Finally, I believe that students should be forced to take drug tests to join any extracurricular organization, including sports teams, funded by the school or the district.  A school’s ability to do this testing was defended by the Federal Supreme Court in Veronia School District v. Acton in 1995 and extended to extracurricular activities in Board of Education v. Earls in 2002. As an added benefit, this would keep our sports players, who are supposed to represent Springfield across the state, from tainting our school’s image by painting us as a cradle for illicit activity.
Drug use has been a serious issue in this district for years.  Recently, that trend has increased dramatically.  What scares me is that this drug craze has penetrated the social fabric of the building, transcending social and economic classes and encompassing all groups.  Despite the fact that Springfield students do extremely well in standardized testing and managed to have a 100 percent graduation rate last year, it is affecting the academic success of students.  If you don’t believe me, think of the classes you have.  I can say with rested assurance that every single class has someone in it that uses drugs to some extent.  I’ll even go further, and say that those students that do use drugs are probably the weaker performers in the classroom.
The school district and the high school need to get their acts together and start fighting this issue head on, before students start openly smoking in hallways and drinking booze at lunch.

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Posted in: Editorials