Panel suggests strategies to keep students off drugs

April 05, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

An approximately 30-member panel thinks it may have come up with some strategies to keep students in Washington County Public Schools off drugs and alcohol.

What group members are wondering, however, is whether some of their recommendations will get off the ground.

The Washington County Public Schools Alcohol and Drug Task Force met Thursday night to put the finishing touches on a preliminary draft report.

Several of the recommendations in the report involve forming support groups and creating programs that will rely on state grant money. But the recent recession that has put strains on state and local budgets may affect the availability of such grants.


"A lot of this is funded by state dollars," said Bonnie Forsyth, the Washington County Board of Education's coordinator of safe and drug-free schools and task force co-chair.

"I think the state of Maryland would be very wise to invest a lot of money in this," group member Glenn Young said. But, he said, "Somebody someplace is going to get cut."

Forsyth said funding shortfalls shouldn't prevent the community from planning drug and alcohol prevention strategies.

"We know that some of the shortfall is going to trickle down to us," she said.

Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan formed the task force after the 2001 Maryland Adolescent Survey indicated a higher percentage of Washington County public school sophomores and seniors had used Ecstasy, marijuana, crack, cocaine and LSD than their peers throughout the state.

For example, 3.4 percent of Washington County sophomores said in 1998 that they used Ecstasy, according to the survey. That percentage jumped to 17.4 percent of sophomores in 2001.

The survey indicated 9.1 percent of seniors who responded used Ecstasy in 1998, compared to 17.1 percent in 2001.

Some of the task force recommendations call for:

-- Establishing a mentoring program for one-on-one services to youth who are at risk of using drugs and alcohol.

-- Forming in each middle and high school alcohol and drug task forces, which would include students and at least one adult coordinator.

-- Creating family events that provide alternatives to drug use and conducting workshops for living a drug-free life.

-- Launching an awareness campaign in the media to change the public's perception regarding alcohol acceptance and to educate the public about the legal issues involved with drugs and alcohol.

-- Providing parents with parenting skills that deter their children from using drugs; inviting parents to attend classes when alcohol, and other drug lessons are being offered.

-- Establishing a kindergarten through 12th-grade substance abuse prevention program.

-- Developing a parent companion program to the kindergarten through 12th-grade substance and abuse prevention program.

-- Asking students who are involved in extra-curricular activities to have voluntary, random drug tests.

-- Increasing alternatives for students who are at risk for taking drugs and alcohol, by expanding access to the YMCA, sport leagues, skate parks, support groups and recreation centers.

Forsyth said the task force's report will be submitted to Morgan and then presented to the School Board for approval, possibly on May 21. Recommendations approved by the School Board may go into effect next school year.

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