How to say no to drugs

LA CRESCENTA — Education and police officials said hard drugs like Ecstasy and heroin are proliferating at some campuses for the first time, a trend made more disturbing by the fact it is reaching into middle schools.

A student at Rosemont Middle School was taken into custody Sept. 17 for possessing Ecstasy. A week prior, a Crescenta Valley High School student was found with two tablets of LSD, school officials said. Between the incidents, law enforcement officials said some students were experimenting with hard drugs.

“There are a lot of drugs that haven’t been here, and it looks like it’s going to be here for a while,” Steve Toly, a sheriff’s deputy, said at a Crescenta Valley Town Council meeting last week. “We have a lot of kids who are fearless of drugs and willing to try anything.”

Drugs appear to be more prevalent recently in the La Crescenta community rather than within the central, more urban parts of the Glendale Unified School District, law enforcement officials said.

Glendale police, who have jurisdiction over schools within the city, have not made any arrests at school sites this year for drug possession, authorities said.

School administrators said one of the best lines of prevention is information that comes from other students. Officials at Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High were tipped off to the drug possession by other students.

“Once we investigate, whatever we find we always make parent contact,” said Rosemont Principal Michele Doll. “Our main goal is prevention and to help students involved. Other students and the systems we have in place helps us at the school.”

Both schools have call lines for tips. School administrators encourage callers to leave contact information that would be kept anonymous, but could yield more information through following up.

Law enforcement officials said the police presence at campuses thwarts those who would bring drugs or weapons to class.

“With the way campuses are run and officers they hire and drug education programs that are done, most people know that contraband, drugs, weapons on school campuses is not tolerated,” Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. “If students engage in that activity, they get caught off campus.”

Still, budget cuts have meant less police presence at school campuses, shifting the frontline to educators and student peers.

In middle school, students are exposed to delicate conversations on social and emotional issues.

Those lessons are explored further in a ninth-grade health class that examines the dangers of drug use. And throughout their scholastic careers, students attend various assemblies that implore them to treat each other and themselves with respect.

Administrators at Crescenta Valley High School said they are open to exploring any suggestion that would constructively combat drug use or perception of drugs in the community.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Principal Linda Evans said. “We bring a drug dog on the campus. We have unannounced backpack searches. It’s just one thing after another thing after another thing, everything we can think of, and we are open to other ideas.”

School officials have invited Pam Erdman, a marriage and family counselor, to address parents at 7 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria about teen behavior and activities.

Parents typically are spurred into action when issues may affect their particular student, official said.

The Crescenta Valley High School PTA has presented the drug issue as one that could ensnare confident and academically successful students just as easily as those who are struggling.

“There isn’t really a stereotypical kid who can fall into this trap,” said PTA President Pat Chambers. “It’s important for parents to have those conversations with their children so if students are approached [with drugs] they will have already thought about how they’ll respond.”

Drugs were a prevalent issue in the late 1980s and early ’90s and the community responded with a anti-drug coalition made up of business, law enforcement, school and parental stakeholders, said Mary Boger, president of Glendale Unified School District Board of Education.

“It hammered home the issues and responsibilities you have to take on if you want to keep your kids from doing drugs,” she said. “It appears to me that that kind of communitywide effort is needed again. And if there’s a community on Earth that’s capable of that effort, it’s Crescenta Valley.”

In 2000, 14-year-old Blaine Talmo Jr., and Chris McCulloh, 13, were found beaten to death at Valley View Elementary School.

Authorities later linked the beatings to a drug-related crime.

Summertime parties in 2008 advertised marijuana and heroin in fliers on car windshields parked near school.

Evans said she gets e-mails from parents who say their child would never be involved with drugs or has no knowledge of drugs on campus.

“Students elect to go down that path, where perhaps you or I or 95% of population would say, ‘This is dangerous,’” Evans said. “I don’t know that I understand exactly what’s creating this sense of fearlessness.”

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