By Liv Byrnes, Terrence Echols, Ali Durkin, and Jillian Risavi
Producers of the Ramfeed
Communities of teenagers all over the country have fallen under the influence of drugs and alcohol and Jamesville-DeWitt High School is no exception. The J-DHS staff has recently taken notice, and feel this problem needs be addressed. A subcommittee of the Building Level Team is currently holding discussions on how to combat future incidents involving alcohol and drugs.
The conversation involves reforming the current consequences for students that are found to be under the influence on school property or at a school event. The current consequences are a five day out-of-school suspension, and a 30 day suspension from any extracurricular activities and sports. There is an option to speak with school counselor Will Hartley for a condensed extra curricular suspension of two weeks. Students receive a five day suspension regardless of whether this is their first infraction or a repeated one. However, they will be increasingly penalized from activities the more they are caught.
The BLT is discussing whether making the consequences harsher could deter students from using drugs and alcohol in the future. “Changing the consequence won’t make a difference if students have problems with alcohol and drugs,” said health teacher Melissa Moore, who is on the committee. “We are torn on whether or not raising the consequence will make a difference” on whether students will discontinue their use of alcohol, she said.
One of the ways they are currently trying to curb the use of drugs and alcohol is by implementing programs that discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol. One of these is the “Every 15 Minutes” program from Upstate Medical Center, which is an awareness program that discusses the dangers of drinking, driving, and personal safety. Representatives from that program recently spoke with sophomores during health class. Principal Paul Gasparini is interested in offering something similar to this program to juniors and seniors.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) fact sheet says “Based on data from 2006–2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, on average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year.” NIAAA also reported that “in 2014, 8.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond 'just a few sips’ in the past month.” NIAAA continued by saying that “young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.” This means consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time.
A small percentage of J-DHS students were interviewed under the condition of anonymity. Interestingly enough, the interviews showed multiple different viewpoints, coming from those who have different experiences with drug and alcohol, some use frequently, some rarely, and some not at all. One of the biggest worries for young users is the possibility of abuse and addiction. A student even pointed out his family’s history with alcohol. “I have a family history with alcohol abuse. Alcohol is bad and it should be taken seriously.” Students also think that if the consequences are made more harsh it will only affect certain students. “Students who care more about their reputation and school work will take it more seriously, while other students continue to do it because they don’t think they will get caught.”
Others seem to not take the issue as seriously. These students use it “to have a good time,” and some even said that they were getting their drug and alcohol tolerance prepared for college. Students think of high school as a time to experiment with drugs and alcohol; they believe that it is a safe time because they want to know if they can handle it before they become independent in college. “(Students) don't care, they don't think they will be caught using or hurt by it,” said Mrs. Moore.
Although the majority of students are aware of the consequences, most of the students drink and do drugs regardless. “I don’t do drugs in school so I’m not worried about getting caught,” said an anonymous student. Many students feel the same way, therefore they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. “I will probably still drink even If the consequences get harsher.”
A small percentage of students who were interviewed throughout J-DHS have admitted to trying and using different drugs such as marijuana, hydrocodone, oxycodone, xanax, LSD and tobacco products containing nicotine. Students get ahold of these drugs from dealers, some steal the drugs from their parents, or other places where it is available to them.
As for alcohol, anonymous students often supply other students, or get it from legal adults as was shown in the recent arrests of parents in Skaneateles.
There has been a multitude of connections when it comes to drugs and alcohol, and how they have a parallel effect on today’s teens to cell phone use. Both drugs/alcohol and cell phones, pull teenagers from reality, and place them in a different and distracted state of mind. Like cell phones, students use drugs and alcohol as gateways to escape and even ignore personal stressors. Mr. Hartley believes that millennials have an unhealthy reliance on screens, like cell phones and videogames, avoiding boredom at all costs. These unhealthy habits are just a few of the many ways teenagers distract themselves, being “marginally present,” said Mr. Hartley.
Due to teens inability to be present, Mr. Hartley thinks that risks of alcohol and drug abuse needs to be stressed consistently throughout the community. Students who feel that alcohol is affecting their lives are encouraged to speak with Mrs. Moore, Mr. Hartley, or any other staff member. “Your mistake doesn't define you as a human being; if you seek help we will help be the bridge, not just drop the hammer,” said Mr. Gasparini.