HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Nearly 30 school superintendents, administrators, and high school principals from around Somerset County came together to discuss drug and alcohol abuse, two serious issues that plague schools and communities throughout Somerset County and the entire nation.
Convened by Hillsborough Township Public Schools, the school administrators met to discuss and share best practices employed by each district in response to the use of illegal substances in their schools.
This topic included the use of e-cigarettes and vaping in school buildings, on school campuses, and at school events.
As the prevalence and use of these devices continues to expand among youth in the United States, schools are faced with the question of how to educate students and change their habits. The districts in attendance discussed their current policies, changes to student codes of conduct, teacher and staff education, parent and community workshops, and the continued cooperation of local police departments.
“While the methods of engaging in unhealthy behaviors continues to change, one thing remains constant -- our willingness to do everything possible to keep our children safe and healthy,” said Karen Bingert, Hillsborough High School principal and vice president of New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.
“Integral to this topic is the education of our teachers and staff on current drug and alcohol trends and warning signs,” she said.
The conversation among administrators also included drug and alcohol trends they are aware of in their communities, student mental health, and county resources that are available to students and families in Somerset County.
“Schools are only one piece in the puzzle of helping students make healthy decisions; our primary goal is education,” said Nick Markarian, superintendent of Bernards Township School District. “The culture of a community and, of course, parents play enormous roles as well. We all need to work to support our young people and connect them to the proper resources as needed. Schools are in a unique position to take advantage of their communication networks to facilitate the dissemination of educational opportunities and materials to parents, bridging the gap between supportive and therapeutic resources and the home.”
The meeting was a first step in working together to helping educate all Somerset communities. The districts involved in the conversation on Jan. 9 have been providing educational workshops and assemblies for students and families, but turnout is often low and speakers are expensive.
In order to optimize the reach of such programs, Somerset County districts will be working together and sharing information about upcoming programs and workshops they will be hosting and inviting families from around the county to attend.
Several upcoming events being held around Somerset County include:
● Steered Straight, Jan. 31, 7 p.m., Hillsborough High School Auditorium, 466 Raider Blvd., Hillsborough;
● Crazy Stressed: Saving Today’s Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience, Jan. 31, 7 p.m., Ridge High School PAC, 268 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge for high school parents and Feb. 1, 2018, 7 p.m., Bernards High School PAC (25 Olcott Ave., Bernardsville) for middle school parents;
● A Night of Conversation Regarding Alcohol and Drug Abuse, March 6, 7 p.m., Watchung Hills Regional High School PAC, 108 Stirling Road, Warren.