I feel some days that I have 1100 children instead of two! Day after day I delight in the wit, sensitivity, creativity, and sense of fun of Campbell Hall students. When I get to teach a class or lead a discussion group, I almost always leave the classroom hopeful and excited that our future is in such good hands.
The greatest threat to my optimism regarding some of our children comes from their use of alcohol and drugs. Although reliable figures are hard to come by, it seems that Campbell Hall mirrors national statistics in that a majority of students experiment with alcohol during their high school years and a small minority try drugs. Both parents and educators need to be realistic in addressing those temptations. Campbell Hall has long sponsored drug and alcohol awareness programs; currently we teach several units in the junior high and high school through our human development classes, and touch on the subject many times in chapel and other classes. While we believe that every youngster who makes a mistake deserves a second chance, we have long made clear the seriousness of our approach to drug and alcohol problems through a “no tolerance” policy towards those students whom we find are using but have not come to us asking for help. In recent years we have become more assertive in investigating rumors of off-campus use (including parent-sponsored after-parties) that reach our ears and reduce the sense of safety and common mission on campus.
Despite our best efforts and those of many parents, this year’s ninth grade class has suffered as a number of students have either admitted, or have been witnessed, possessing, using, and/or selling drugs. Eight students have left the class at different times during the year. Adolescents are notoriously unrealistic in assessing the consequences of their behavior and adjusting accordingly; this year has seen a small number of more public users. While there is no evidence of any larger trend in the student body, it is still heartbreaking to us as idealistic and hopeful people that a small group could have veered so much off-track.
The number of drug-related incidents has occasioned much reflection and discussion in our administrative teams, and proposals for reviewing and modifying our drug and alcohol education program, our messages in chapel, and our disciplinary policies abound, which is as it should be. At the same time, it’s clear from conversations with families that parents play the central role in keeping their children safe from the temptations of drugs and alcohol. Campbell Hall’s Parent Education program was started about fifteen years ago in recognition of that central role that parents must play.
In response to recent drug-related incidents, we have also formed a joint PTC/administrative Drug and Alcohol Awareness Committee to review the school’s curriculum, policies, and practices, and to support the work of the Parent Education program by planning networking opportunities for parents. The following issues were prioritized in the Committee’s first meeting on the morning after the Town Hall:
-Greater clarification of the following issues in the Student Handbooks: 1) Explanation of “zero tolerance”; 2) Emphasize that “zero tolerance” includes major off-campus infractions; 3)Emphasize that families who come to the school asking for help for a student’s drug problem before a disciplinary issue arises may be able to remain at school if they participate in appropriate rehabilitation programs and stay incident-free moving forward.
-Explore Secondary “Summer Socials” for each grade level, grade level coffees, and Breakfast Clubs.
-Explore the possibility of having incoming secondary families meet in smaller groups with administrators, perhaps even one-on-one, to review expectations and policies.
-Use case studies on drug and alcohol issues in advisor groups.
-Expand community service opportunities for parents and students at local rehabilitation centers.
I emphasize that the most important thing you can do at this point as parents is to attend, in the weeks and months ahead, grade-level networking gatherings and also events sponsored by our Parent Education program. Get to know more parents in your class, and talk about parenting issues. As one parent noted in our well attended Town Hall meeting last week, we hope to see the same high attendance in all of our programs throughout the year.