And now, the hard part

Opinion: Editorials

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This is just about the point in the debate about drug and alcohol use among teens where the grownups start to drift away. They've had their consciousness raised. They've vented their outrage. And dang, it sure is cold out.

Yes, Oak Park and River Forest have been here before. Multiple times. We do have a rampant problem with teens using drugs and alcohol. But like a lot of places, once the hands have been wrung, it comes time to make hard choices, genuinely controversial choices, and it is easier to call the process a success and retreat to the safety of home.

This time, though, feels different. It started last spring with intense emotion as hundreds of parents gathered at Oak Park and River Forest High School to listen to clear-headed pros tell us this problem is absolutely real. The discussions continued through the summer with solid turnouts among parents and officials.

Now it is winter and the meetings not only continue to draw significant numbers, but the discussion has turned to solutions, to active interventions. Closing the campus at the high school is now clearly on our community's agenda. And last week, at a well-attended meeting in River Forest, a large majority of parents expressed support for bringing drug-sniffing dogs onto the campus and for crafting a policy allowing some measure of compulsory drug-testing for teens.

This is the real deal, the real conversation that these villages need to have. This newspaper has, in deference to that necessary conversation, stepped up to but not over the line in backing a closed campus. We will take the same posture on dogs and testing. We are open to these ideas. With precautions built in thoughtfully, particularly in regard to testing, we can be persuaded.

What would not be acceptable to us are critics who will rightly surface now and protest such initiatives as civil rights violations but who do not offer solutions of their own to the drug and drinking problem.

We have a problem. We have a responsibility to solve it. That's what the grownups do.

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Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

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J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 11th, 2011 12:12 PM

When I was about 5 or so, I saw a scary man... a transient. My mom turned to me and said "See, that man?! He's on drugs! That's what drugs do to people!" No need for DARE. There wasn't enough peer pressure in the world to make me curious. Yes, the experience stayed with me. The problem and solution both start in the home.


Posted: December 31st, 2010 2:51 PM

Illinois School Code - attendee of OPRF HS must reside in Oak Park or River Forest with guardian. It is against the law to: Enroll/attempt to enroll on tuition-free basis when student is not resident of OPRF HS. Knowingly present HS any false information regarding the residency of a student for the purpose of enabling the student to attend on a tuition-free basis. Evidence of crimes given to law enforcement authorities & punishable 30 days prison and $500 fine. HS will charge tuition on day the student was enrolled illegally in the District through the time the student is dropped.

Freespirit from coke park  

Posted: December 31st, 2010 1:02 PM

If these parents were held responsible for their kids, fined, possibly even jailed for the actions of their students, maybe THEN we would see some change. These behaviors DO begin in the home and are taken to the community & our school. Students that are sneaking into our school, come because of there lying parents, who live in the City of Chicago. I believe the reason you can't get a hold of these parents is the web they spun is so thick with lies they can't even produce a working phone #.


Posted: December 29th, 2010 4:09 PM

(Cont'd) And if the parents don't know what to do - reach out to other parents and seek help. People are out there to lend a helping hand, you just have to realize when you can't do it on your own and take the proper steps.


Posted: December 29th, 2010 4:07 PM

I completely agree that critics who protest such initiatives need to offer solutions and not just criticism. People under the age of 18 are minors and therefore under the control of their parents, unless they go through the emancipation process. Parents, if they haven't already done so, need to step up to the plate, take off the rose-colored glasses and realize their child is not perfect! Keep communication open, be "nosey" about your kids' lives and do your job as a parent.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 1:14 PM

I am curious: what exactly is the "problem?" Is it now so serious because kids are ODing from heroin, meth and pills? Is it because those types of addictions wreak more havoc quicker than other substances? Why do we always militarize things and think it will work? If kids want to get high, they will simply leave their stash at home, figure out ways to beat the test, or drop out of school altogether. I don't think it will cause them to not want to get high though, which is the crux of the problem

OPRF Drugs  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 8:37 AM

Problems with Drug use BEGIN at home. Parents need to admit to this reality. Can we close the campus - Sure. Can we bring in Dogs - Yes. Will that take care of the behavior, the need that is driving the consumption - No. Who will be monitoring issues and behavior at home. Surely we are not going to turn to the government for this as well are we?

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