Behavioral problems in schools are not a new issue but how we address those problems has evolved and should be discussed. Peer pressure of humiliation by wearing a dunce cap and corporal punishment have gone to the pages of history books. Today the issues and causes of behavioral problems in our schools are far more complex than years ago.
Today what was once a school yard fight can lead to real violence physical harm and even death. Today we have substance abuse issues that were virtually unheard of years ago and they are not limited to high school students. Exposure to drugs and alcohol starts at a young age and often at home.
Children hear mention of these issues on television, in music and on the news. Too often the association of drugs and alcohol is related to fun, growing up and experiencing new things. Our comics make it an issue to laugh about, our entertainers treat it like a right of passage and our young people absorb this input as knowledge.
In the 1950’s a teen would begin smoking cigarettes because it made them feel more adult. Today teens think nothing of trying marijuana “everybody does it” they say, our legislature is even thinking of making it legal. A Friday night party with alcohol and drugs is pretty standard in the world of the high school “in crowd”.
Some students will mature and live normal lives, some will become addicts that never achieve, never use the potential they were born with, how sad but true. Living in a small town does not make you immune to these problems it only means they get less press coverage.
There is no newspaper to tell you in the last three school years 20 students from Coventry have been expelled from school and most of those related to issues of alcohol and drugs. Over 1/3 of the students expelled in Coventry were from the Captain Nathan Hale Middle School. Last year there were nine expulsions and so far this year another seven.
We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend we do not really have a problem or we can take positive action to bring attention to the problem. That is not to say our problem is exceptional or more profound than other school systems but these are our kids and every one of them is one of our sons or daughters of this community. Every one of these students is special to a friend or neighbor and just maybe that person does not have the ability, resources, or interest to help that child, but we as a community should.
The issue is here today to start a discussion on drugs and alcohol and the impact they have on our children. These are issues that impact a community over the long-term with higher crime, social costs and loss of potential from those faced with addiction.
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Tomorrow: Drugs, Alcohol, Children and Schools Part II Expulsions
The topic will be about the reaction of the Board of Education to the problem and some of the history of the Expulsion Committee action.