By Terry Dean
The closed campus debate at Buzz Café Dec. 15, was more of a conversation over hot cocoa and brownies.
Seven people, most of them students, attended the event, part of the teen café series organized by Oak Park and River Forest High School students to address substance abuse by teens on and around the campus. The roughly 90-minute talk addressed several issues, including talk of a closed campus, which is being pushed by some parents as a way to crack down on drug use. But for the students at the Buzz, 905 S. Lombard, closing the campus isn't a viable solution—one consequence, they said, would be more parties on the weekend and increased alcohol use away from campus.
There was some talk about what students could do to keep the building open, but also acknowledgment that little could be done if the school board approved it. Some of the Buzz participants also didn't think the use of drug sniffing dogs, another idea of some parents and adults in the community, will work.
The students at the Buzz felt that parents are stereotyping the OPRF kids as heavy drug users and drinkers. Not all students, they insisted, are users. The Buzz participants also felt that the high school and parents were focused more on trying to keep drugs out of the school rather than keeping it away from kids in general.
One participant in particular felt the school had no answers to stopping kids from taking drugs. To that, the students talked about the school providing more support for students who do use. They especially thought that teachers could reach out more.
Some participants added that students with good grades—even those with 4.0 GPAs—are also heavy users. The student participants did say they have seen drug dealing at OPRF but not as an everyday thing. Another participant talked about a friend who was an addict.
The students, however, did acknowledge that substance abuse was a problem at the high school that needs to be addressed, and felt that parents and adults in the community are truly concerned about their well being. Still, one participant said it was "infuriating" how little parents know.
Sarah Macey, a 17-year-old senior at OPRF who attended the discussion, is generally opposed to a closed campus, but thinks it should be open for students with consistently good grades and good behavior. As for canine-sniffing dogs, Macey said the school's money "could be better spent elsewhere." She does, however, support random drug testing, calling it a plausible solution. The Buzz group talked about OPRF's use of breathalyzers at school dances, which some participants thought was effective; others felt it was too intrusive.
Sarah Leib, a recent OPRF grad, said keeping kids on campus would not make any difference to the drug issue. Leib suggested utilizing police more to stop drug distribution, but said people would still find ways around that.
"It's just a hand-reach away," she said of drugs in the school.