To tackle the issue of drug abuse by students from Oak Park and River Forest, it’s going to take a community effort according to the three local school superintendents.
The Citizens’ Council of Oak Park and River Forest High School has led the effort this year to focus more attention around drug and alcohol abuse. Superintendents Steven Isoye, Thomas Hagerman and Albert Roberts each acknowledged the council’s work during their roundtable discussion Aug. 12, hosted by Wednesday Journal.
Roberts, superintendent of District 97, stressed that the entire community is needed to make a difference with kids. Concerning the prevalence of drug use, Roberts said that’s more evident during non-school hours and also when children are unsupervised.
“Those become community and societal issues. And unless you have an active community, unless they’re at school board meetings asking the right questions, challenging us as well as supporting our work, then you get far less,” he said. “It is active community participation. It’s knowing where our kids are. It’s not just a parent issue but a community issue that we work together on to solve.”
Roberts said the drug issue is plaguing communities nationwide. The superintendents also talked about having active parents involved overall.
Isoye acknowledge that parents do have high expectations for OPRF.
“They do expect the best from us,” he said. “They want to have a voice and they’re very interested in the education of their son or their daughter. We should be very glad about that. There are enough schools out there that are sitting around the table trying to figure out how do we get our parents in. We have a luxury; we’re not trying to figure that out.”
Isoye added that such a partnership can take shape around many issues, not only student substance abuse.
But concerning the drug issue, Isoye noted that it’s taken on a grassroots effort toward solutions.
“One thing the council and its subgroup have been doing is making it a grassroots effort through the community; to come in, learn and to begin to develop ideas on how they can all work closely together. And to begin to send the messages of what the community will stand for and what they won’t stand for with the young people that are here.”
The three superintendents also talked about working with students on making better choices. But that, they said, needs to take place in the schools, the kids’ homes and in the greater community.
“We’re in a very upper-middle class community and as much as anything it’s about supervision and access,” Hagerman said. “Unless parents are willing to be very active partners in this process we’re not going to be able to make a lot of headway. It has to be a joint message and it has to be a clear one. And I think that’s probably where we have all fallen down in some ways.
“I hear parents or other adults in the community make comments about the fact that maybe it’s not that bad, or these are just kids, or maybe it’s OK in moderation,” Hagerman added. “You can’t give kids those messages.”