Drug and alcohol use and abuse is a problem, not just at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School but in high schools in MetroWest, the state and nation.
The numbers reported in the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey conducted in November 2008 tells a compelling story.
“But digging behind what the numbers say, specifically at L-S, is scary,” said Scott Carpenter, the new superintendent/principal at L-S.
Digging behind the fact that one third of L-S seniors reported in the 30 days (prior to the survey) they drank alcohol before driving and more than 28 percent said they used marijuana prior to getting behind the wheel.
“What scares me the most – that’s of the seniors who actually drive,” added Carpenter. “Not all seniors drive.”
Concerned with drug use, Carpenter and the Sudbury and Lincoln police want to embark on a proactive approach by working with parents and the community to change the sobering statistics at L-S.
Police and L-S administrators have had a long-standing bond. Now they want to expand that bond to include parents.
“Have the police, school and parents interact to educate students as best we can,” said Sudbury police Lt. Scott Nix.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach and we need to rely on each other,” said Sudbury’s interim police Chief Richard Glavin.
The “single scariest thing” Carpenter deals with as an administrator is getting a phone call from the police that the worst has happened.
“In my nine years at L-S, no enrolled student has been in a fatal accident or had an overdose, but the fear is there,” he said.
But the stats show students tempt fate. In the health survey, 21 percent of students reported riding with a peer who had been using marijuana.
“We are not just dealing with the issue of using drugs, but the problem of getting behind the wheel of the car,” said Carpenter.
Another sobering concern is binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours. L-S reported 21 percent; compared to more than 23 percent for the MetroWest. Just for seniors, more than 39 percent reported binge drinking.
To help reduce these numbers, Carpenter wants conversations to start earlier.
“Awareness has to start with the parents,” said Lincoln Lt. Kevin Kennedy. “We are concerned with the safety of the kids.”
No one wants to repeat the fatality of a Concord Academy student who died in an icy stream after leaving an Andover party.
“We want them to leave the parties safe,” said Lincoln Police Chief Kevin Mooney.
The consequences may mean the difference between life or death.
“If their child is going to someone’s house for a party, talk to the parents where they are going,” said Mooney. “Be part of their lives. Be up front. We need everyone’s help.”
Education includes talking about the changes in the new marijuana laws that send the wrong message, Kennedy said.
“The law makes the legality and abuse of it more ambiguous to kids,” added Carpenter. It also blurs what’s safe and not.”
In the past students used a single joint, now they have an ounce and beyond, said Glavin. “They can buy it for $10 a bag.”
And the problem is not just marijuana. Everywhere the use of heroin, coke ecstasy and misuse of prescription drugs is alarming, said Mooney.
Heroin is on the rise, the mystique of the needle is gone, students can now use it in other ways, including smoking it, said Nix.
It affects school work although students frequently comment that it doesn’t.
“It’s denial of the impact,” said Carpenter.
“There’s a host of issues,” said Kennedy. “We want to prevent kids making a bad decision.”
With a proactive approach, Carpenter plans to make a public presentation in the fall at the high school, flagging some of the numbers of concern and focus on what they mean.
“Paint a compelling picture of what we need to address, start to work with Sudbury and Lincoln public and look at similar information they have from the middle schools to target intervention and programming,” said Carpenter.
“From a school administrator’s perspective, these are our students,” said Carpenter. “This is where schools and community need to work to educate and address the problem.
Realizing the problem does not suddenly start at L-S., principals Steve Lambert at the Curtis Middle School in Sudbury and Sharon Hobbs at Lincoln School, will make a joint presentation to their students and talk about the risks.
Sudbury and Lincoln police encourage suggestions and concerns from the community.