Friday, November 12, 2010
Alcohol, drugs remain a concern at CCHS
Alcohol and drug abuse by teens continues to be a concern. Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) Principal Peter Badalament and School Nurse Christine DeBruzzi spoke with the Mosquito about approaches the high school is taking to deal with the problem and offered tips for parents of teens.
Badalament noted that students were randomly selected to use a breathalyzer as they arrived at the first CCHS dance in September. Although the effort initially appeared successful, he said that after the dance the cleanup crew discovered empty alcohol containers. He warned in a recent newsletter that he will cancel remaining dances, except for the proms, if alcohol use is found. (The Halloween dance was cancelled, due to a mixup in scheduling chaperones, not because of concerns about alcohol.)
For now, dances will continue, Badalament said on the phone, but “we will continue with breathalyzers. It made a difference with the dance in September.” He said that they may also do random testing during the dance. “We’ve had our breathalyzer a number of years and have used it if we suspected in the past that during the dance someone is under the influence.”
“Alcohol remains the most widely abused substance out there,” Badalament explained. In addition, the school has seen evidence of drug use on campus. He said that there is a link between teen substance abuse and mental health, and there is a tie-in with the school’s suicide prevention work. “It’s interrelated,” he explained. “A big piece is youth resiliency. Our approach is positive, proactive ways to support teen mental health.”
Survey shows rise in drug use
Reported alcohol use has dropped since 2008, according to the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey sponsored by Emerson Hospital last spring. However, 53% of high school seniors surveyed said they had had a drink and 40% admitted to binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row) at least once during the past month. Illegal drug use (marijuana, prescription drugs, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy) has risen (see table, page 6).
At school, under the influence
If a student is suspected to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, CCHS school nurse Christine DeBruzzi explained, “We do a physical exam to be sure there isn’t an emergency.” She said the process of dealing with the student is a team effort. “We’re very supportive.” The team may include a social worker, a school adjustment counselor, and an administrator. The student’s parents are called. The administrators are responsible for administering a breathalyzer or contacting police, if necessary, she explained.
DeBruzzi, who works with part-time help, noted that if she had additional staff “we could do a ton more intervention programs.” She added, “Health is more than dealing with illnesses. It’s about the community as a whole.”
“It’s a great concern,” said Badalament about student drug abuse. “I haven’t seen the numbers declining at all.” DeBruzzi agrees. Badalament said that they are considering the use of K-9 dog searches to check for illegal drugs.
The survey results show that males are twice as likely as females to use illegal drugs or be offered drugs on the school campus. Badalament said he is thinking of ways to reach out to male students. He said he ran a boys group at his previous school. It was informal. Anybody who wanted to participate could attend.
School adding a campus monitor
Badalament said that a second campus monitor will be hired this year. The monitor will supervise halls and parking, and check students who have open-campus or off-campus privileges. The school had employed two monitors for many years, he said, but had dropped one position due to budget cuts.
Open-campus status allows a student to go to areas such as the library, courtyard or art studio without a pass. Not until students are juniors can they earn this privilege. Students who earn open-campus privilege do not automatically get off-campus privilege, which allows a student to leave the school campus during the lunch blocks. Second-semester juniors can earn off-campus privilege if they have not been cited for a violation such as leaving the campus. Seniors can earn off campus privilege and all students must have their parent’s permission to have open- or off-campus privileges.
What should parents do?
Parents should be talking to each other, Badalament said. “The parent-to-parent communication piece is very important. It’s simplistic, but the more calls between parents on what their sons and daughters are doing in the community” the more it helps, he explained. If a child is attending a party, the parents should confirm that adults will be at the house and that no liquor will be served. “I hope that the minority of parents who believe alcohol use is okay can be reduced,” he said. “We need a greater awareness in the community.”
DeBruzzi said she likes the phrase, “Parents, you matter.” She said, “Teens try to convince parents they don’t matter, but they do. They are role models.” She said teens listen to what parents say “even if they are rebelling. As parents, we have to give the same message over and over.”
“A key piece to watch for is the use of cigarettes,” DeBruzzi warned. When parents smell cigarette smoke, they should suspect their teen is using alcohol. “It’s a big red flag.” Chewing tobacco is equally popular with teens. Asked what she wishes parents would do, she said, “Having alcohol available puts teens in a place where there are temptations. We lock our lower cabinets when our children begin to crawl. We should lock all cabinets that can hurt them.” She suggested that parents praise their teen when they make a hard decision to do the right thing. “We should applaud our kids” when they choose to act positively.
According to the Massachusetts Social Liability Law, any person supplying alcohol to persons under 21 is subject to criminal charges and can be subject to civil charges. Parents can be held responsible for each person who drinks in their home and homeowner’s insurance will not cover the cost of litigation.
“Parents should offer consistency and never give up,” said DeBruzzi. “Students are not adults. They are still growing and making choices. They depend on us for guidance. Sometimes we need to be their guardrails.”
2010 Youth Risk Survey
At the high school level, over 5,000 students from seven area schools participated in the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, with roughly 91% of the kids in those schools responding. While the CCHS-specific data was not available as of press time, the overall results have been released. The three schools, Acton-Boxborough, CCHS and Westford, comprised three fourths of the survey data. The portion of the data by school was: Acton-Boxborough – 31%; CCHS – 19%; Groton-Dunstable – 13%; Littleton – 6%; Maynard – 5%; and Westford – 26%.
Kathy Codianne, Concord Regional Director of Teaching and Learning, who has compiled the data specific to the Concord and Concord-Carlisle school districts, will present a summary at the Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting on November 23 and Badalament urges parents to attend the presentation. The RSC meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library. ∆
© 2010 The