JAY – Three mothers broke down in tears as they talked about their teenagers’ drug problems and the struggle their families have gone through. They urged parents Thursday to go home and talk to their children.
School officials and police did the same.
About 50 people gathered in the high school library to discuss drug and alcohol use by students at Jay High School.
The results of a school-wide survey that touched on many subjects indicated that 61 percent of the students strongly agreed or agreed that students were too much involved in drugs.
Principal John Robinson said he and other staff members have had comments from students and parents about drug abuse and observed behavior that signifies drug and alcohol use.
School staff and police have been working together to resolve the problem and called on parents and community members to get involved.
Guidance counselors Ben Milster and Julie Talmage and substance abuse counselor Karen Haley shared how they have discussed the issues with students and spoke of some of the services available to help them.
Haley said she realized right off the first day that “we absolutely do have a drug problem out here at Jay High School.”
They have a contract with Evergreen Behavioral Services to help students with substance abuse and other problems such as depression, or loss of a loved one that could lead to self-medication, Haley said.
She provided handouts for people as they left that gave the warning signs of teenage drug abuse but cautioned that just because their children may exhibit some of these symptoms doesn’t mean they’re using. It does raise a red flag, she said.
Assistant Principal Kenric Charles told parents that he has been advising students to make good decisions in school and outside. He also said he’s told them that if they’re bringing drugs or alcohol into school “I’m coming after you.”
Charles has told students that he will search them, search their lockers, search their cars and has done just that when he has suspected drug or alcohol use. He’s also asked the kids and asked parents Thursday to contact him if they know anyone who’s using drugs. He’ll keep their names confidential, he said.
“I think things are better than they were two months ago but they’re still not good enough,” Charles said.
Police Chief Larry White Sr. said police were working and doing some different things as they investigate matters. They have different rules to follow than the school, he said, and they need probable cause to search someone.
White said the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency put on workshops for teachers to educate them on what drugs are available in the community.
“We’re working very closely with the school,” White said. “No one’s closing their eyes.”
He also noted that there has been some discussion on having a school resource officer to keep an eye on things. He said it was going to take more than school officials, teachers and police to make this work; they need the parents and students to get involved.
Superintendent Bob Wall invited everyone to a retreat from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, May 26, at Franklin Memorial Hospital to develop ideas to keep students safe and drug dealers at bay.
“Drug dealers are not going to give up their customers without resistance,” Wall said.
Officials are pricing cameras for the school and it will be up to the School Committee to decide if they’ll approve them, Wall said.
Robinson said he used to think he was savvy about drugs but after the presentation with the drug agency, he not only doesn’t know about what’s out there, “I’m scared.”
Kids are taking pills, OxyContin, Ritalin, mood elevators and crushing them up and snorting them, Robinson said. And there’s heroin out there, he added.
Charles said he learned about kids going bowling. It means they go into medicine cabinets at home and take the drugs and bring them to a gathering and put them in a bowl and take a handful and they don’t know what they’re taking.
Kids are going into the bathrooms at school and crushing the pills and snorting them. When teachers turn their backs in the classroom, they’re snorting them, he said.
It’s hard to detect when someone is taking prescription medication, several said, because it doesn’t have a smell like alcohol or marijuana. Parents also said that they met their children at the doors and they didn’t know they were under the influence of drugs.
Time and time again, the message came up for parents.
“Go home and talk to your kids,” Robinson said. “Let them know we had a meeting and we’ve been talking.”