It was a sobering experience (no pun intended) sitting in the fourth floor council room of Verdugo Hills Hospital on Tuesday evening.
I arrived late to the forum hosted by the CV Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition. The forum was an information gathering opportunity for local parents, many of whom came with their children to hear the speakers. The topics covered included underage drinking and drug parties hosted with and without parents, teen and pre-teen binge drinking, and drug use among kids. With an estimated 120 people attending it was standing room only. Before I got there, the audience had seen a video that our local teenagers made giving a glimpse into how they view drugs. The kids’ faces and voices were distorted, so they could offer an honest opinion.
When I arrived Judge Henry J. Hall was at the podium. He focused on the “real life” repercussions to parents and kids should they be convicted of drug and/or alcohol related crimes. For kids, their college future may be jeopardized since many colleges won’t accept applications with a conviction on the record. Also, financial aid, including grant money, may be limited. The judge noted that not going to college might have more of an impact to a kid. Punishments for parents include fines and imprisonment.
How times have changed. When I was a kid, those who did drugs weren’t interested in college anyway. They only seemed focused on when they would get high again.
When I went to high school in the ‘70s, it was the height of the disco era and I was a disco queen. I was smack dab in the middle of the drug culture but sailed through it – I wasn’t interested in drinking or drugs, just dancing. Those who were involved in the drug culture were interested in “feeling good.” At the forum I learned that attitudes by users have changed.
Katherine Kasmir of Straight Up of Ventura County said what used to be a college level behavior is now seen at a high school level – a scary scenario when one considers how emotionally charged those years are. She said that the entire social dynamic has changed, that in years past kids at parties would still look out for each other. She said party-goers will often times see a guy carrying a passed out girl to another room for some action. Whereas in the past someone would intervene on the girl’s behalf, now many feel that while it is not okay, it is not their problem.
Local statistics were also presented regarding arrests of students under the influence at GUSD schools. While there seems to be some discrepancy, what is without dispute is that there are more substance related expulsions and suspensions at Crescenta Valley High School than at Glendale or Hoover high schools. The obvious difference is that we have an open campus. Kids can come and go at lunch time and, personally, I think this is a mistake.
I know that many in our community disagree with me, but I think that there are fewer kids coming to school high than there are returning to campus high after lunch. I also understand that the logistics of keeping 3,000 kids on campus during lunch and making sure they all have time to eat is a challenge, but at the very least it should be attempted. My suggestion is to close the campus and see what happens; after all it can always be reopened.
Finally, kudos to Rosemont Middle and CV High schools for having policies in place that give kids a way to tell adults in charge about things on campus that are of concern to them. They are the ones in the middle of it all and are the best source of information.
The next meeting of the coalition with law enforcement is on April 22 at 7 p.m. at the CVHS library. It is open to everyone.