By Melissa Ford
Radical ideas! That’s what I love about Community Cafes (besides John Williams' hospitality) where parents, community members and leaders, police, assorted interested parties dive head first into discussing important issues like teen substance abuse at Oak Park River Forest High School and every option available to solve that problem.
As John Williams, Director of Youth Services for Oak Park Township, so aptly put it, “Kids and substance abuse is a problem that belongs to all of us. We all know something so let’s listen, share, and get a little uncomfortable.” Initially, it was easy to get uncomfortable as we heard the topics to be discussed were: (1) drug-sniffing dogs, (2) random drug-testing, and (3) closed campuses. We considered the pros and cons of these seemingly radical approaches. The conversations were stimulating, informative, and galvanizing! Imagine - a drug-free high school where our children are supported to learn and be healthy. Did you know:
- Random passive drug-sniffing dog searches check for drugs and alcohol AND educate kids.
- Drug testing is a proactive measure rather than reactive one - supporting healthy kids to stay healthy and deters kids who use.
- Drug-sniffing dogs and drug-testing are not meant to catch kids and punish them, but rather to support kids (whether they use or not) and their right to learn in a safe, drug-free environment.
- Parents, in communities that use drug-sniffing dogs at their high schools, have an overwhelming positive response to these searches, asking school administrators: “Why haven’t you done this before, and when will you conduct another search?”
- Drug-testing supports those kids that are following the Code of Conduct in their school. It’s action not just words.
- Drug-testing is a common experience in our culture today for our kids. Submission to drug-testing is required for internships, jobs, sports, and extracurricular activities.
In the words of Diane Busch, a consultant who works in conjunction with schools to create anti-drug and alcohol programs that utilize random drug testing, drug-sniffing dogs, and closed campuses, “It’s time to break down the barriers to our students learning and keep our healthy kids, healthy.” Hear, hear! Keeping drugs out of our schools supports all of our kids (users and non-users). It promotes their health, safety, learning, and lifestyles now and in the future.
Remember: keeping drugs out of our school requires action! Where do you stand on drug-sniffing dogs, closed campuses, and drug-testing? Take some action and make a comment because teen substance abuse is a problem that belongs to all of us.