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Drug Candy Store High School

November 21st, 2003 · No Comments

Bainbridge Island Schools have a reputation: some of the highest test scores in the state, but also some of the highest drug use statistics as well. The schools are described by some as one “big drug candy store”, where kids can get anything they want. The island’s problem was profiled in the Wall Street Journal in 1988, and fifteen years later little progress seems to have been made.

Recent stats appeared in an article in last week’s Bainbridge Review, Community Confronts Drinking Drugging :

According to the 2002 Healthy Youth Survey, administered statewide, 36 percent of BHS seniors admitted they had been binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks – at least three times, nearly 10 percent of respondents said.
BHS students drank more than in 2000, bucking state trends; 42 percent of sophomores drank at least once over the 30 day period of the survey, compared to a state average of 29 percent. For seniors, consumption rose 10 percent to nearly 60 percent, while the state average fell to 42 percent. Alarmingly, 72 BHS students answered “yes” when asked if they had seriously considered suicide over the last year.

I had heard the drug numbers but not the suicide one before. Last year I began to get involved with a group seeking to address these issues, but I only went to one meeting. I felt frustrated by the direction the group seemed to be seeking at the time. Finding or creating a community center that would be open late hours for teens seemed to be a big focus but I felt that was not addressing the heart of the drug issue: families and homes.

A forum was held last Saturday to address the drug concerns and an editorial in the Review on Wednesday gave a favorable opinion:

If the size of the assembled company was any measure, then the Just Know forum last Saturday may be counted a success.
More than 330 islanders packed the high school commons to learn more about the impact of drugs, alcohol and depression on their children. The event, planned by the new Just Know coalition of schools, social service agencies, and grassroots parent groups, was supported by the city, school PTOs and 16 island businesses.

What I appreciated most was the new openness, as the editorial described:

….Because joint ownership is the first tiny step down the road to ameliorating the problems our kids face. We especially applaud those courageous individuals who were willing to stand up and admit that their own kids have problems.
As informative and enlightening as the workshops were, and as laudable the group effort that turned out more islanders than any gathering in more than a quarter century of efforts to reduce risky behaviors among island youth, that new openness may prove the best measure of the day’s significance.
It may mark the beginning of a real shift in island sensibility away from the culture of competition that places looking good above the well-being of one’s children.
Openness may be the cure for the social embarrassment of ‘fessing up to a mental illness, depression, that afflicts so many island kids that 315 seriously considered suicide last year.
These social ills are night-blooming plants that flourish locked away;. It’s the willingness to risk saying, “It’s not some other family. It’s mine” that opens the door for others to come forward and seek help.

“It’s not some other family. It’s mine”. I was happy to read this and I felt more hopeful about the forum because I agree: Ownership and openness will open the door down the road to help and healing. The culture of competition on the island and in families needs to surrender to the culture of care. No community center or coffee house will do it. Hope starts at home.

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