To The Bernards Board Of Education Regarding Drugs And Alcohol

March 24, 2014 at 7:37 PM

Dear BOE members:

I am the mother of a junior at Ridge and a rising Freshman. I also have a second grader who one day will attend Ridge.

I am also a mother who doesn't provide alcohol to children in my home. I am also a mother who checks backpacks when they come in the house, makes them come in the front door, and makes my kids take selfies of the parents with them when they are at a party - to be sure that the parent is there. I am a mother who randomly checks their texts and facebook pages to ensure they are safe, and checks in with them when they come home to ensure they haven't been drinking. I talk to my kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and my kids all participated in DARE and got A's in health class.

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I am doing what I can to ensure that I am NOT in denial, that my child is safe, and he knows the boundaries and consequences for crossing them.

But yet, at 7AM each day I drop my son off to a place where he can easily obtain any one of a number of drugs. Where the people in charge are not doing anything to slow the sale, distribution and use of those drugs. Where no matter how safe my home is, it doesn't matter because for 40 hours a week he's in an environment filled with drugs, and sometimes alcohol. I am fortunate in the sense that my child has been somewhat honest about the ease with which kids are buying and selling drugs at school. But I continue to be frustrated at the thought that if he knows what's going on, doesn't everyone else?

It seems to be common knowledge around town, both with the parents and the kids, that drugs are everywhere on school grounds. Why then, does our school administration do nothing? I would hate to think that we are so concerned about our reputation that we've chosen to stick our heads in the sand and do nothing to avoid a light being shined on the problem. How many children have to end up in rehab or worse before we do something?

I have heard from BOE members that they are looking for "hard statistics" that RTD and Drug Dogs work in the school. Unfortunately, as the board knows, providing hard statistics is difficult, as the results are tough to quantify. But if we stop just one sale, just one child from using that day, isn't that enough? More and more districts, including some in New Jersey (Lacey Township, and Milburn High School), New York and Connecticut are regularly using drug dogs on campus. According to an article written this January for ABC News, " while there isn't a central database recording schools that use drug dogs, firms, like Interquest Group, Inc., a Houston-based company that trains and contracts drug-detecting dogs, have thrived on the business. Interquest started sending dogs to Texas-based schools 24 years ago. Now, it contracts dogs to 1,200 school districts (and 8,000 campus locations) in 19 states.
"What the dogs do is that they validate the presence of a problem," said Michael Ferdinand, vice president of Interquest. "They deter those who would think of bringing drugs or firearms on a campus. Those who see the dogs conduct these searches — they don't know when the searches are coming, and they have an investment to protect. They just don't think it's worth it [bringing drugs, alcohol, or firearms into a school]."

Experts say the use of dogs reflects the problem administrators face as they try to protect their schools while providing a comfortable environment for students.

Those that advocate drug testing in schools do so in the belief that it is likely to reduce drug taking, deter use, provide proof where use is suspected, assist former users to remain abstinent, reassure parents that ‘something is being done’ and act as final proof when expulsion is being considered. The Office of National Drug Control Policy in US asserts that random drug testing in schools has been effective in reducing drug use and, most importantly, deters drug use among adolescents. Drug testing was responsible for a significant reduction in cigarette smoking among 8th grade students (13-year-olds) from 35.9% to 24.4%, alcohol use from 39.9% to 30%, and cannabis use from 18.5% to 11.8%.

None of us expect the problem to disappear overnight. And I don't think anyone thinks that the problem rests solely with the school. But it is time for our district to do its part. We've educated our children. The parents are (largely) doing what they can at home. But we are begging you to do the right thing - clean up our schools and do what you can to provide a drug free environment for these kids.

Stacy L.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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