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News (Media Awareness Project) - US SD: Student Substance Abuse Rising
Title:US SD: Student Substance Abuse Rising
Published On:2011-12-01
Source:Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (SD)
Fetched On:2011-12-19 06:05:43

YSD Officials Requesting Help From Community

Yankton school officials are asking the community for its help in
dealing with a problem they are seeing grow exponentially in area
schools -- the use of alcohol and illegal drugs by students.

In the first four months of the school year, there have been 10 high
school students and three middle school students caught under the
influence of alcohol or drugs on school property. Its a rate that high
school principal Dr. Wayne Kindle says is beyond anything he has seen
in his 17 years in the district.

"The numbers we are talking about at the high school do not even
reflect the issues we have dealt with involving kids coming to
activities, not just during the school day," Kindle said. "We have had
several instances where students are coming to a school activity under
the influence. In the last 17 years I have been an administrator at
the high school and middle school, I have never had this many
incidents in this amount of time. It is concerning."

Assistant principal Jennifer Johnke says what is even more frightening
is these are just the students that are getting caught.

"One of the issues is that kids who are not involved in the drug and
alcohol scene are more willing to come and tell us what they know,
which is very helpful in determining who is under the influence," she
said. "We want students to step up and do that. (But) in some
instances, it is a student's lackadaisical approach to using that is
getting them caught. They don't think it is a big deal so they are
very open about it."

Unfortunately, the issue in the Yankton schools reflects what is being
seen in the community.

Through the end of November, the Yankton police department has seen
area youth charged with 40 minor in consumption (MIC), and made 77
illegal-drug arrests and six alcohol-possession arrests. It's a steep
rise when compared with 2010, where there were 22 MIC, 31 drug arrests
and only two alcohol-possession arrests through the end of October
(November totals were not available.)

"I know we are in some tough economic times right now," Kindle said.
"On the other hand, it seems to me that the availability of money and
resources to kids does not seem to be an issue. Along with the access
to the drugs and alcohol, they seem to have the money to be able to do
these things. I don't know if it is because more kids are working so
they have the availability of money. But when we all know about the
economic issues going on, it certainly has not deterred alcohol and
drug use among our teenagers."

The administrators said that the increased prevalence in the use of
marijuana is particularly troubling to them as well.

(Marijuana) seems to be much more accessible to kids," Kindle said.
"Having parties seems to be something that is occurring more and more.
We are facing some tough issues and it is not just with the school. I
think our community needs to get involved, our civic groups, our
parents, our students, as well. We just need to make a concerted
effort to do more. What 'more' is, I am not sure."

Currently, when a student is caught using a controlled substance on
school grounds, several things happen. The student's parents are
called, law enforcement are summoned, the student is charged with the
appropriate crime and immediately placed on a short-term suspension.
From there, the district reviews each case.

"By state law or school board policy, we could suspend kids for the
remainder of the year; we could also expel kids for up to a calendar
year," Kindle said. "We have some say in what we want to do based on
the situation with the student: Have they been in trouble before? How
cooperative have they been? Are they willing to do the tasks in the
agreement? Are they serious about wanting to come back to school? Are
they serious about working on their work outside of school? There are
a lot of factors we talk about before we do determine the number of
days that we will long-term suspend kids."

Once the length of the suspension has been approved by the school
board, the student then is not on his or her own.

"We provide students an opportunity to complete all their work and
turn it in for full credit while serving their suspension," Kindle
said. "We require a drug and alcohol assessment. Maybe we should
require more with that. We also give them access to the
alternative-learning school after school and before school hours. We
have provided them a lot of landing boards so there still is help for

But the administrators wonder if enough is being done for the

"I quite honestly felt that a long-term suspension sufficed and
hopefully gave a clear message to kids, parents and whomever that we
are very serious about this," Kindle said. "On the other hand, it
appears to us that from the beginning of the school year to now that
message did not become very clear. We are really trying to find what
is going to work here and what is going to help kids."

The thing that is clear, the school district is asking the community
for their help in dealing with the issues.

"I don't think this is a consequence of just what the parents and the
school are going to do," Kindle said. "It needs to be what the courts
are going to do. In the end, the bigger thing is what kind of help or
treatment, classes, whatever it might be -- what is going to be done
to get the kids help?"

Middle School principal Todd Dvoracek said students need to understand
that the issue is unacceptable and not just at school, but anywhere
they go.

"There are times that kids just make a mistake and they need to learn
through that," he said. "That is the biggest thing. It isn't a life
sentence, but we do need to have consequences in place for them to
still meet and make our schools safe."

Johnke added that message needs to be sent to all students, not just
the ones being caught. She warns that if a student sees that another
student who was caught did not have any consequences, they may choose
to do the same type of behavior.

Dvoracek said he hopes the school district can come together with the
community the same way they did when drafting the new attendance policy.

"Wouldn't it be nice a year from now to say, because we all got
together and dealt with this we are seeing the numbers of students
using dope?" he asked. "In the end it will help and prevent something
and we will be on the road to fixing things."

Dvoracek warned parents that the students involved have come from
every social economic and household type possible.

"It is a total school population issue," he said. "It is an issue that
is affecting everyone, and everybody needs to know about it. It is not
just one group of people; it is affecting everyone. To fix it, we have
to get everyone involved to find a solution to prevent it rather than
just a reaction. These are just the kids that are getting caught.
Other kids are getting away with it and hiding it, not just from us,
from everyone."

Kindle said that he hopes sudents will start to develop pride in how
they present themselves to the community and at school.

"The most disappointing piece to this, is kids come in and it doesn't
seem to bother them for whatever reason," he said. "How about a little
Yankton pride? That isn't how you come into your school. It isn't how
you conduct yourself. It isn't what your parents, teachers or peers
expect. Further more, if it really doesn't bother you, you need some
help. If it takes us catching the kid under the influence and there
are some consequences along with us forcing them into an assessment
and forcing them to get help, then I am ok with it."
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