Friday, August 19, 2005

The Alarm Bells Are Ringing: What's To Be Done?

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has just released a survey that reveals some alarming trends regarding the availability of drugs in our schools as well as students' attitudes toward drug-use. Due to the critical nature of the subject-matter, we have chosen to reprint the entire press release. It makes for an interesting and engaging read. (emphasis added)
Since 2002, the number of students who attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold has jumped 41 percent for high school students and 47 percent for middle school students, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse X: Teens and Parents. This tenth annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University finds that 62 percent of high school students and 28 percent of middle school students attend drug infected schools, up from 44 percent of high school students and 19 percent of middle school students in 2002.

“This means that some 10.6 million high schoolers and 2.4 million middle schoolers are likely returning to schools where they will find drugs are used, kept and sold,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “These are the kids most likely to be left behind. It’s time for parents to shout ‘We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more’ and for education officials in Washington and the states, cities and counties to mount the same campaign to get drugs out of our schools as they are mounting to increase test scores.”

CASA’s tenth annual survey also reveals that teen perceptions of immorality, parental disapproval and harm to health are far more powerful deterrents to teen smoking, drinking and drug use than legal restrictions on the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol or the illegality of using drugs like marijuana, LSD, cocaine and heroin.

·Teens who believe marijuana use by someone their age is "not morally wrong" are more than 19 times likelier to use it than those who consider such use "seriously morally wrong."

·Teens who say their parents would be "a little upset" or "not upset at all" if they used marijuana are six times likelier to try marijuana than those whose parents would be "extremely upset."

·Teens who consider marijuana to be “not too harmful” or “not harmful at all” are eight times likelier to try marijuana than those who consider marijuana “very harmful” to the health of someone their age.

·Morality, parental attitude and health considerations also powerfully influence the likelihood of a teen drinking or smoking.

·Most teens say that legal restrictions have no effect on their decision to smoke cigarettes (58 percent) or drink alcohol (54 percent), and nearly half say that illegality has no effect on their decision to use marijuana (48 percent) or LSD, cocaine and heroin (46 percent).

"Laws restricting smoking and drinking and making illegal the use of drugs like marijuana and cocaine play a significant role, but we must recognize that morality trumps illegality in deterring teen smoking, drinking and drug use,” said Califano. “Parent Power is the most effective way to discourage teen drug use. Most kids get their sense of morality from their parents. The message of the survey is loud and clear: Parents, you cannot outsource your role to law enforcement.”

This year’s survey also found that 43 percent of 12 to 17 year olds see three or more R-rated movies each month either in theaters or on home video. These teens are seven times likelier to smoke cigarettes, six times likelier to try marijuana and five times likelier to drink alcohol, compared to those who watch no R-rated movies in a typical month.

Another troubling finding in this year’s survey–and one consistent with the sharp rise in students attending drug infected schools–is the increase in the number of teens who say that their friends and classmates use illegal drugs. From 2004 to 2005, the percentage of teens who know a friend or classmate:

· That has abused prescription drugs jumped 86 percent (from 14 percent to 26 percent).

· That has used Ecstasy is up 28 percent (from 18 percent to 23 percent).

· That has used drugs such as acid, cocaine, or heroin is up 20 percent (from 35 percent to 42 percent).

· Teens who attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold are three times likelier to try marijuana, more than three times likelier to get drunk in a typical month and twice as likely to use alcohol, compared to teens who attend drug-free schools.

· Students attending high schools where drugs are used, kept or sold estimate that 44 percent of their schoolmates regularly use illegal drugs, compared to a 27 percent estimate by students in drug-free high schools.

· Substance abuse risk is nearly twice as high for students attending schools where smoking is permitted.

· Nearly half of smaller high schools (fewer than 1,000 students) are reported to be drug free, compared to less than a third of larger high schools (1,000 or more students). Nearly three-quarters of smaller middle schools are reported to be drug free, compared to about half of larger middle schools.

· Teens who say that more than half their friends are sexually active are nearly six times likelier to smoke, drink and use drugs.

·The ten percent of teens who say that more than half of their friends engage in casual sex (hooking up with someone other than a regular boy or girl friend) are nearly four times likelier to smoke, drink and use drugs.

·One in three teens say that drugs are their biggest concern, but only slightly more than one in ten parents rank drugs as their teen’s top concern.

·Marijuana is reported by 23 percent of teens to be easier to buy than cigarettes or beer.

·Forty-two percent of 12 to 17 year olds (11 million) can buy marijuana within a day, and 21 percent (5.5 million) can buy it in an hour or less.

·Teens who attend religious services weekly are at half the risk of substance abuse as those who do not attend such services.
Download a free copy of the entire report right here. Order a print version over there.

In our district, until three years ago, any student who was in possession illegal drugs, alochol, or tobacco, was automatically recommended for expulsion by our governing board of trustees. All students and parents were advised of this policy (in writing) several times throughout the school year.

In order to give the district's administration some "flexability," that policy was modified to read that only those students in possession with intent to sell or distribute illegal drugs and alchohol will be recommended for expulsion. Language referring to the possession of tobacco has been dropped entirely.

The problem has been identified. Now what is going to be done about it?
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