Medford schools highlight drug, alcohol abuse

Medford schools highlight drug, alcohol abuse

With a lot of focus in recent years on school safety, security and violence, many districts have put less of an emphasis on drug and alcohol abuse.

However, that is not the case in Medford, where the Medford Public Schools and Shawnee High School decided to make drug and alcohol abuse the central topic during Violence Awareness Week from Oct. 21–25.

At Shawnee, Assistant Principal Ben Lamberson and Heidi Krihak, Shawnee’s substance awareness coordinator, held a parents meeting to help inform them of the reality of drugs and alcohol in schools.

Lamberson made a point that his goal wasn’t to scare parents. He emphasized the school’s effort in trying to help kids who have a substance abuse problem.

“This isn’t just an issue at Shawnee High School,” he said. “This is an issue across the state. We don’t want to pretend it’s not an issue.”

Throughout the week, students at Shawnee worked on projects and participated in events to help promote saying no to drugs and alcohol. Lamberson showed a PSA made by students that played on the school’s television network during the week.

In addition, Shawnee High School featured students as part of a Character Counts program. School administration and staff identified kids who make Shawnee a better place.

The goal is promote character in school so students may be swayed more toward those attributes.

Preventing drug and alcohol abuse for students goes beyond these programs and even beyond school walls. Lamberson said he has dealt with many substance abuse cases in his eight years as assistant principal. He said while there are cases of drugs in the schools, they are also watching out for kids when they leave the classroom.

When a student is suspected of drug or alcohol use, they are immediately tested according to school protocol. If the test comes back positive, they are enrolled in counseling sessions with Krihak.

Lamberson made a point that discipline doesn’t fix these addictions.

“It’s about help,” Lamberson said. “We care about the kids. Sometimes that gets lost.”

Beyond explaining the dangers of drugs and alcohol and their proliferation in schools, Lamberson was also trying to get the parents in attendance on board with the administration. He explained that many parents are in denial or refuse to get their children help.

“We shouldn’t be permissive,” he said. “We can’t just say ‘it’s OK, go ahead.’ This is about a partnership. We want to partner with you.”

Coinciding with Violence Awareness Week is Red Ribbon Week, which is specifically focused around drug and alcohol abuse in schools.

Medford Public Schools held a number of events to promote drug and alcohol awareness last week, with the goal of reaching students before they hit the age when substances become more prevalent.

Gale Ferraro, director of pupil personnel services for Medford Public Schools, said the schools had theme days across the week and hung banners around the schools to commemorate the week.

The schools also had poster contests and classroom lessons around those themes. The district also hosted an assembly about Red Ribbon Week across all