Somebody once said that if you asked 1,000 people in a room to raise a hand if they thought their local school had a drug or alcohol problem, 1,000 hands would go up. But if you asked how many thought their own child had a drug or alcohol problem, all hands would go down.
I generally use this space to tell you about the great things happening in the Nordonia Schools. This month, I want to share with you a concern I have for the health and safety of, not only our students, but the community as a whole.
My concern is based on the most recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted every two years among ninth- to 12th-grade students in public and private schools. The survey found 39 percent of teens had consumed alcohol, 23 percent used marijuana, 6.8 percent used cocaine, 11.4 percent used inhalants, 2.9 percent used heroin, and 3.8 percent used methamphetamine within the prior 30 days.
Another survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found the prevalence of drugs in schools is not limited to public institutions. Indeed, this year's survey found, for the first time, that more than half of students attending private school (54 percent) say illegal drugs are present at school.
The fact is, Nordonia principals occasionally discover students using drugs or alcohol and discipline them accordingly. However, our hope is to prevent drug and alcohol use in the first place and to ensure our students are safe, healthy, and ready to learn while at school.
The perception of which students are using drugs and alcohol has changed over time. In my generation, the group of students who dressed in black, hung out in the corner of the cafeteria or the top of the bleachers, and who were referred to as "stoners" by their classmates, were the ones assumed to be using drugs.
That's not the case anymore. In these times, our principals see students in their offices for drug and alcohol-related issues from a wide spectrum of the student body: Low-achievers and honors students; kids who come to school for only their classes and those who are active in clubs or sports; and those who went to Nordonia their entire career and those who came to Nordonia from another town or private/parochial school.
I do not believe the Nordonia Schools have more or less of a drug or alcohol problem than other area school districts. But as superintendent of the Nordonia Schools, my primary concern is for our students and our community. I want to make sure our kids and community are drug and alcohol free so our kids can continue to achieve at high levels and live healthy lives, and I want us to continue to be proactive in our approach to this issue.
To that end, I want to make you aware of resources available to the community. First, we will be holding as community meeting in February that will be invaluable. The Copley Police Department will be here to present a program called "Hidden in Plain Sight." You will be able to walk through a 3-D display of a typical teen's bedroom, discuss current drug trends, and learn how to tell if a teen is using drugs or alcohol. We will publicize the meeting once the details are confirmed.
Second, if your child or a child you know is using drugs, they can self-report -- without fear of being disciplined --to a school counselor, principal, or Dr. Deb Wallace, the district's Community Intervention Coordinator. Dr. Wallace is a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselors. She can provide assistance or find resources to help a child get clean and sober. Dr. Wallace can be reached directly at 330-908-6020.
Third, if you see something, say something. That is, if you know of students who may be using or dealing drugs and alcohol in school, please let a school administrator know. If you are uncomfortable reporting in person, you can leave a message on our anonymous tip line at 330-908-6166, which can also be found on our web site, www.nordoniaschools.org. It does not do the student any favors not to report. We are unable to help students if we do not know they need help. And, you may save a life.
Fourth, www.theantidrug.com is a great website where parents can find information about learning how to tell if their teen is using drugs or alcohol, the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and where they can go for help if their child is using drugs or alcohol. This website shows that early intervention works.
We know that most children do not start out abusing cocaine, heroin, or prescription drugs.
Most start with "gateway" drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. Intervention at the time these substances are abused may prevent additional drug use and serious problems. This can be a tough issue for parents to want to think about, but parents who educate themselves through the great resources available are better prepared to keep their own children safe.
Our belief is that school is the safest place for our kids to be. We want them to come to school healthy, so they can learn. If students are using drugs and alcohol, we want to give them the help they need. We also want to protect the vast majority of our students who are not using drugs and alcohol, so that they may come to school in a safe environment. Let's continue to work together as a community to teach our kids how to live responsibly and drug-free.
I wish you a joyous and peaceful holiday season. Remember to follow me on Twitter @DrJoeClark. Editor's note: Clark is the Nordonia Hills superintendent of schools.