Thanks to Dr. Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder, Sara Cowey, Rhett Ladner, Dr. Darrin Peppard, and Dr. Steve Woolf for sharing their ideas. Their comments were lightly edited and organized for this article.
Highlights – Key Strategies:
- Newspaper and social media articles
- Strengthen relationships between students and adults, one at a time
- Restorative practices
- Partner with local law enforcement and health agencies for educational programs
- Recognize this as a mental health and wellness crisis and address it that way
- Community gatherings with experts to inform parents about the issue and explain how to talk about it with students
What kinds of things are you seeing?
Vaping has been a huge deal for us to battle with. Part of the problem is kids have learned how to jimmy them so that they can put marijuana or meth in them. In fact, we had a dad loading them up for his kid to take to school with marijuana laced with meth. Tough stuff!!
I had to suspend a 1st grader for possession. It’s getting bad and we have to think outside the box.
We are in an “epidemic” hot zone for this in the Bay Area.
This is a really tough topic that we have been struggling with.
We are having a huge problem with heroin in NJ along with vaping marijuana.
What actions are you taking?
In addition to all of the information and strategies we use in our schools, we have had large community gatherings led by experts on vaping and brought together by a collaboration between different groups serving our kids and families in the communities in our district.
We are doing a lot with restorative practices and parent training. We held a hidden in plain sight where a mock bedroom was set up and the detective showed parents what to look for in regards to substance abuse.
Since heroin is also involved, we are doing a lot of discussion in our LEAD programs (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) – our Municipal Alliance is a huge help.
We are currently looking into beefing up our security too. The bathrooms are a huge problem and we obviously can’t put cameras in there. However, they have new heat sensing technology that detects vapes and juuls and students using them, so an administrator gets an alert to a specific bathroom where the issue is occurring. A little costly but no choice with this issue.
So far, we are sending a lot of kids to Substance Abuse classes and groups. Problem is the program is already FULL for the rest of the year.
I have told the kids we’re in the midst of a mental health and wellness crisis and need to step back and take better care of ourselves and each other.
I am reaching out to anyone and everyone I know to see what they are doing.
We are also exploring “Restorative Practices” and that is helping.
We have hit this with parent meetings, newspaper and social media articles, and the like. We partnered with local health entities but this one is tough.
We need to look at this from another angle. When Russia and the USA came together during WWII in Berlin to win the war, the last thing that needed to be done is a house by house, building by building search to find all of the Nazis and clear them out. It was dangerous, deadly work that could only happen house by house. We are going to have to use this strategy with our kids by dealing with them on an individual basis and “attacking them” with an adult who cares for them, loves them, will demonstrate the right behavior, and speak truth into their life. This is going to have to involve our staffulty who can build relationships with individual kids that we know are doing this and other responsible members of the community who may have that type of connection…house by house. We can win this battle for our kids’ health and lives but it will be difficult and probably not rely on the “carpet bombing approach” only of big city meetings and info that we kick out there in school. We will likely continue those efforts, but now we are going to have to get “surgical” in our district by attacking the problem with positive relationships and love.
Example of a communication about a community event: