RANDOLPH, NJ - After receiving parent input about the Sept. 1 alcohol incident through board meetings and correspondence, Superintendent Jenn Fano hosted a forum on Oct. 4 for potential problem analysis for future large-scale substance abuse situations.
The session attempted to answer the question, “what problems could arise if students are under the influence of substances at school events?” by predicting potential problems, listing likely causes and suggesting preventative or contingent actions.
At the Wednesday evening parent meeting, Fano opened by instructing the parents not to rehash past events but to reflect and look ahead to preventing future problems. Approximately 30 parents attended, several board members, and one Randolph High School student.
“We’re here to move forward,” said RHS Principal Debbie Iosso. “We’re here to reflect on what we can do better, and I don’t know if we’ll figure all of that out tonight, but hopefully we’ll be well on our way to that goal.”
Iosso and Fano clarified that educators legally can not make a judgment in the case of substance abuse, and the student must be sent out to a clinic for testing. One teacher at the meeting explained that behavior evidenced may not be related to substance abuse, but a diabetic reaction or anaphylactic shock, and teachers are not qualified to discern.
While many parents stated that qualified personnel need to be enforcing the no-bag-or-bottle policy at the entrance, Senior Class President Nate Pangaro added that communication needs to be clear when alcohol is found in the bleachers.
“What do we do once it’s in?” Pangaro said. “Personally, I’m not going to bring anything in, but I have a jacket that can easily hide, you know, a beer can.”
Parents agreed that students will break the rules if they feel they can get away with it.
Randolph parent Brian Hendrickson does not have a problem with the current policy, stating, “If my son is in a group that’s drinking, but he’s not, if you take the whole group out because you suspect [drinking] - you find bottles, you smell alcohol - I want to know that… Now I have three years to address this before my son is off in college… and I can’t address it.”
“Can we just say that something failed that night? Because these are things that have always been in place,” said one Randolph parent.
Iosso admitted that having a game before school started on a holiday weekend seemed like a great way to build school spirit for the new year when planning the calendar, but clearly did not work out as they hoped.
“Drinking for high school students will always be a challenge,” Hendrickson said. He appreciated the game before the school year started, because it gave his son an opportunity to get out in the community. "This started a great dialogue between him and I about what went on.”
Securing the perimeter of the football field, particularly the side toward the middle school, came out as a top priority in the discussion.
Suggestions for preventative actions included providing wristbands or a ticketing system to identify which students went through the security check, scheduling games on Saturday afternoons instead of Friday nights when possible, mandatory parent education and asking the hospital to send representatives to the school instead of flooding the local emergency rooms with students.
Iosso added that students will be involved in the policy process through focus groups and student government.
Another parent said her own children do not attend football games because “they know what goes on at the games.” She encouraged the administration by saying that more students might participate and attend if they know sufficient security is in place.
“We took these jobs because we wanted to educate kids, so when we look at teachers and say, ‘we want you to be security guards or stand at a ticket booth, or search backpacks,’ they’re not comfortable with that,” Iosso said. “I just hope the bottom line that people understand is that our actions were to protect your kids.”
Fano reminded all parents of the policy committee meeting on Oct. 17 at 5:30pm in the RHS Media Library.