DRUG PREVENTION EFFORTS
Last week, the focus of my article was on Minnesota statutes related to drug-free zones and the types of legal consequences set forth in the law. This week, I would like to extend the information a little further to share information about the ways in which we, in the ROCORI School District, work to enhance the drug-free zones with prevention efforts.
Of course, one of the first and most significant steps we take as a school district is to engage in preventive efforts through education. Instructional efforts with students start at the elementary level and continue into the secondary schools.
The educational efforts come in a variety of forms including health education through our curriculum and regular classes, special events and speakers who are brought to the schools, regular programs like DARE or CounterAct, and student organizations like RADD (ROCORI Against Destructive Decisions). Our activities coaches, as well, help to reinforce the importance of staying away from chemical use through character education and emphasis on Minnesota State High School League rules.
Although drug education efforts are most natural within our health curriculum, there are also other classes or programs that address positive choices and the influence of chemicals. Some of our character education, family groups, and homeroom units involve positive decision-making. Other classes emphasize good values, the impact of positive and negative choices, and similar concepts.
DARE (Drug-Abuse Resistance Education) has been a steady training program at the elementary schools, especially at Richmond and Rockville. At Cold Spring Elementary, we have used DARE and CounterAct. School Resource Officer Ruben Zayas will be engaged in DARE training this summer to be able to bring the program back across the elementary schools.
RADD is a student-driven organization which, as the name suggests, focuses on helping students make choices that are positive rather than destructive. It started as a SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) unit but has broadened its base to work to help students identify and avoid destructive choices and decisions.
OTHER DRUG PREVENTION EFFORTS
Although we would like to believe that educational programs, alone, would help students avoid drug (including alcohol) use, we know that chemical use will be an issue for students. Chemical use is an issue across all society; we can’t expect that our students will not be confronted with the challenge and choices!
Because of the issue of chemical use and abuse in our society, there are additional steps that we take to prevent drugs and alcohol on campus.
Mark Jenson, Principal of the ROCORI Secondary building, offered a list of some of the steps that are taken as a regular part of our programming at the secondary building.
1. We encourage parents and students to use the anonymous tip line. The tip line was implemented to allow parents and students the opportunity to share information to help us combat chemical use. This tip line has been, and continues to be, an important resource for us. Mr. Jenson explains, “We act on every tip we get.” Often the tips lead us in a good direction and provide enough details to allow the district and school administrators to intervene.
2. We work very hard to keep students’ and parents’ names safe when they do give us information. Information is treated in a very confidential manner. Information is only given to those who need it and, most often, the specific source is not necessary in order for us to act. As a school district, we simply need to have a “credible source” of information in order to take action.
3. The secondary site applies a practice of conducting random locker searches—which are often done in groups of students/lockers. As the phrasing indicates, random searches are just that—conducted at random. A block of lockers will be chosen to be searched. District policy, and Minnesota law, holds that the lockers are always the property of the school district and the ability to enter the lockers is never relinquished by the school. As such, they can be opened and searched at any time.
4. The secondary site brings drug dogs into the building to do a search about 2 or 3 times a year. The building will practice the “shelter in place” procedures which restricts some of the movement within the building while the drug dogs search parts of the building. Again, the dog searches are done in different parts of the building and are assigned to areas in a random manner, but the building is searched.
5. Administrators will periodically walk through the parking lots to check cars. All of our parking lots are posted with a warning that all vehicles on the premises are subject to search and we act upon that policy. The district works hard not to abuse the search process and maintains appropriate standards. Generally, any drugs, paraphernalia or other items must be visible in order for officials to act. However, if we are given a tip (anonymous hotline or other) that is credible and the vehicle is in our lot, we are able and will search the vehicle.
6. The secondary school recently added a requirement for those students who do get caught with chemicals, drugs, or other violations to engage in a chemical health class. This class has been a powerful addition and seems to be an effective tool in working with students.
Mr. Jenson reported that “Rarely will a search of a student or a locker yield any results.” That does not mean the practices outlined are ineffective or not worth conducting. Rather, Mr. Jenson explains, “Because of the dogs, random locker searches, and other steps, students rarely bring the stuff into the school.”
Students are well aware of the serious nature of the Drug-Free Zone that was outlined last week. Because the consequences are more significant for drug issues within the Drug-Free zone, it is less likely for us to experience situations within the buildings. “When or if we do find significant drugs,” Mr. Jenson continued, “it is most often in a car in our parking lot.” Any arrests or seizures, however, are pursued under the provisions of the Drug-Free Zones legislation.
ACTING ON INFORMATION
As Mr. Jenson reviewed the efforts of drug prevention, he stressed the importance of acting on information. “Again, the biggest thing is we act on EVERY tip we get and do everything to protect our source. If parents are listening to their children or know of something drug or alcohol related, they need to get the information to us. If we have enough time, (like a party coming up on the weekend) we tend to leak the information out on a Friday afternoon that we know about it and that law enforcement will be there. Sharing that information typically breaks it up before it starts.”
It is not our desire to get students in trouble. Our goal is to prevent the situations and experiences from happening in order to avoid the trouble. Mr. Jenson explained. “Again, I am trying to point out that we don’t want to “bust” students. But, we will act on information if we know about it and can inform police.”
Because of some recent activities, information, and tips we have received, the secondary site has been working to coordinate an informational session for parents. The session is set for Monday, April 11, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. The program will be in the ROCORI Auditorium.
“This is an opportunity for parents of 6-12 graders,” Mr. Jenson explained, “to come in and learn about the latest issues involving area teen drug use. Cold Spring Police officers will be presenting information involving drug use and provide examples of current drugs that are out in the community. School officials will also be present to discuss school policy, preventive measures, and answer any questions that parents may have.”
This event is being conducted in conjunction with Parent Teacher Conferences at the secondary site. Parents are welcome to visit with the teachers of their student(s) as well as stop by the auditorium at 6:30.
The program is intended to help parents learn about the current drug and alcohol issues facing our community’s teens. The goal is to have the school and parents be proactive partners in helping children be successful.