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Drugs high school culture 2

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  • 1. Drugs firmly entrenched in high school cultureR ecently in these pages, we read that 22 students from a notes or understanding, or even hope that the helpful kid inHamilton high school were suspended for smoking pot. The seat next to them will show up each day.name of the school is not important; if we focus on one New standardsschool we reinforce the perception that it is always the otherschool that has the problem. What is important is that drugsand alcohol are now firmly entrenched in the culture of ourhigh schools. It’s clear that schools do not have a magical force fieldthat prevents drugs and alcohol from coming in and out ofschools and being used on school property.Drugs abound Our kids face daily challenges in our high schools,challenges that are not academic. The drug culture in highschool is so pervasive that our kids must make decisions RAY PIDZAMECKY PENNY SMITHevery day to “toke up” and cut class or to resist and riskexclusion or at least sneers and put-downs. When we, as Peer harassment is also a constant part of school culture.social workers, talk to Grade 11 and 12 students about the North American culture tells adolescents that to be popularnumber of decisions they have to make every day just to get they have to wear the right clothes, be thin, buy the rightthrough it, they dismiss it as no big deal. But it’s apparent products, have incredible personal freedom and finances,that it wears on them consistently and negatively. love loud noise and frantic behaviour. Our kids pay strict Although many organizations of adults have been waging attention to these messages and use them to judge eacha war against drugs, the statistics still show that alarming other. Attempting to meet these criteria makes kids vigilantnumbers of kids are trying drugs and alcohol, and at and anxious.younger and younger ages. Some of our kids have been They often become so dependent on other teens’ opinionsmaking decisions about drug and alcohol use since Grade 7 that they become vulnerable to prolonged harassment and arejust one year after they received the DARE program and apt to end up being controlled by other kids.thought everyone in their peer group felt the same way they They become so controlled that their thinking becomesdid. After all, they did their DARE essays, said ‘no’ to distorted. This distorted thinking, in turn, can happen todrugs and graduated from the program. So why are the teachers and administrators, who worry excessively aboutnumbers increasing? opinions of parents and community members who feelNew order at parties, dances schools are too punitive or “uptight” or that bullying and The social options of high school dances and parties, harassment are just normal teasing.which used to be the standard of fun, are becoming So what are we to do?increasingly dangerous. In Date Rape: a Question of Trust Our kids are not fighting this battle alone. There are many(Bigelow and Simpson, 1996) we’re shocked to learn that dedicated parents, teachers, administrators, support staff,51 per cent of young Canadian women between the ages of and custodians who continue to create as much of a16-24 will be sexually assaulted. And 80-90 per cent of welcoming environment as possible. But for many of them,these assaults will be by someone they know. as for the kids, each day is a constant struggle. There is a corresponding increase in the use of the drug We have to help kids articulate ways to make their schoolrohypnol (roofies, also called the rape drug) being added to safer and more welcoming. They seem to know more abouta drink. So for some young women there is no chance to what they need than do the adults in charge. We have to acteven consider a defence because they are unconscious on their suggestions. We have to start with a standard ofduring the assault. respect toward each other. We have to work on this until weMood disorders on the increase get it right. We have to clean up our lan guage, improve our Many of our kids are becoming depressed and anxious. attitude, include each other and establish that only kindnessThese kids will act out or withdraw in order to cope with matters.”their disorders, which keeps their teachers and peers If we’re not prepared to act as responsible role modelsvigilant and apprehensive about their behaviour and safety. then we should lower our expectations and our hopes for ourMany teachers complain about the amount of time kids are kids. If our schools don’t become safer, saner and moreout of the classroom to “help” each other during emotional welcoming, our kids will continue to invest more energy incrises. Some of these students may be malingering, but surviving than they will in developing skills they need tomany are truly and desperately worried about their friends, manage successfully as adults.and don’t feel that adults understand enough about kids’ •••culture to really help effectively. Ray Pidzamecky MSW and Penny Smith MSW areMore stress, less support private practioners and can be reached at: Truancy is a common symptom of emotional distress in 905-466-0444adolescents and it makes it significantly harder for theattending, hardworking student to cope. They can’t count on or visit www.parent-watch.com.group members for projects, or depend on buddies to share Burlington Spectator, Saturday December 18, 1999

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