Teaming up against youth drug use

GLENDALE — A coalition of parents, educators, law enforcement officials and other community stakeholders have decided to meet monthly in an effort to combat illicit drug use among Crescenta Valley students.

The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council is expected to meet every fourth Thursday at Crescenta Valley High beginning in January, echoing the community-wide effort that minimized drugs and alcohol exposure for teens during the late 1980s and early ’90s.

This semester alone, 31 high school students and one middle school student have been investigated for expulsion for alleged drug and alcohol use. Of those, 20 instances occurred in Crescenta Valley, prompting the council to take a more permanent tack, organizers said.

“When we had a rash of heroin kids, I thought that was enough and something has to be done about it,” Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian said. “It’s something that’s been going on for a long time. It became horrible right now, and it’s led me to focus on creating something for this community.”

The presentation to the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education came three days after a South Pasadena Unified student died after attending a party where students were drinking alcohol. His death is still under investigation.

“It needs to be a good lesson for them all,” Zakarian said.

He joined Crescenta Valley High School Principal Linda Evans and council organizers Howard Hakes and Nancy Stone in explaining the group’s plans for parent support initiatives, after-school programs, monthly meetings and quarterly drug-awareness forums.

The group appealed for another school resource officer to assist with counseling students and lead law-related lessons. Hoover and Glendale High have two officers, while Crescenta Valley High has one part-time officer, they said.

“I don’t know where that’s going to come from,” Zakarian said. “I know funding is tight.”

Crescenta Valley High is the one Glendale Unified campus with an open lunch period, in which students are free to leave campus for the 37 minutes until the next class begins. Board members said they should begin conversations to determine whether the high school should follow Hoover, Glendale and Clark Magnet high schools, which have closed campuses during lunch.

“That’s a treat for them,” Vice President Greg Krikorian said of Crescenta Valley High. “It’s a gift; we want to treat them like adults. But unfortunately there are people hunting these kids, and we’re creating another window for them.”

Board member Christine Walters also appeared to back the closed-campus idea.

“I want to be sure we are not enabling anything,” she said. “Seeing the number of expulsions we’ve had that are drug-related is stunning to me.”

Glendale as a city ranks highest in Los Angeles County for adults who report using cocaine and marijuana.

“Any time the community is facing an issue, it is reflected in our schools,” Glendale Unified Deputy Supt. Dick Sheehan said.

He recounted an activity where students pay $5 and pick one pill from a bowl. Then there was a case of a student selling methadone and possessing LSD. Another student was sent to the hospital after sniffing an inhalant.

School administrators said they were doing everything they could to combat the problem, and were open to new suggestions. Anonymous tip lines have been set up at Crescenta Valley High and Rosemont Middle School. The campus also implemented random backpack searches and monthly sweeps with a drug-sniffing dog, Rebel.

Earlier this year, more than 300 people attended Crescenta Valley High’s two parent information sessions, where parents led conversations centered on parenting responsibilities and establishing solid communication with teens.

“It’s very hard for one parent to suggest to another parent that their child has a drug problem,” board member Joylene Wagner said. “Nobody wants to hear it, but we need to be able to share that.”

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