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Dangers of Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse - There's Lots to Lose
As you know, in my capacity as Superintendent of Schools, I have written many times over the years regarding various issues facing our school district. Today, I wish to do something quite different.
It may surprise some of you that I am a parent of four children, ranging in ages from 13 to 22. I am no stranger to the challenges which accompany being a parent in today’s climate. Parenting is certainly not easy, and as a parent myself, I am respectful of the many decisions which parents must make daily regarding the welfare of their children. Today, I write to you less as a Superintendent, and more as a parent concerning the health and safety of our BCSD children, in the same way as I am concerned for the health and safety of my own children.
As many of you may know, last month our school district hosted a Summit on Drug and Alcohol Use among our Youth. Nearly 100 concerned guests attended. The guest list included our elected officials, our medical and mental health professionals, representatives from law enforcement, fire, and EMS, clinicians, counselors, substance abuse prevention and intervention experts, our teachers and administrators, and a number of our parents.
After over two hours of presentations, discussion, listening, and reflection, we became profoundly aware of three things:
1. We learned this is not just a BCSD problem. This is occurring in communities across Westchester County, New York State, and our Nation.
2. Our school district, like many of the surrounding districts, has a problem with regard to our students’ use of alcohol, nicotine, vaping paraphernalia and accompanying substances, marijuana, and other drugs. Data reported directly from our students confirms this.
- We learned that drug and alcohol use by our students has led to serious health and legal consequences.
- We heard the stories of Ms. Ally Kernan, a recovering opioid addict, now a substance abuse prevention and intervention professional; and, from Mr. Jeff Veach, who lost his son to an opioid overdose at age 17. Mr. Veach's son, Justin, upon his first use of heroin, did not wake up.
- We learned that in both cases, and in countless others, marijuana and alcohol abuse are gateways to serious substance abuse problems, including opioid abuse. This is particularly problematic when substance use begins at a younger age, such as middle school.
3. We learned from our law enforcement partners, the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, and substance use and abuse professionals that there are occasions when adults contribute to this problem. Some parents host parties where alcohol, marijuana and/or other substances are available to minors and some parents allow their adolescents to attend such parties.
The current state of this problem is unsafe and unhealthy for our children.
So where do we go from here?
First, I am asking parents to join me in becoming more informed about this issue. I ask you to start with the following short articles, which will take very little time to read:
- Addiction starts early and easily: The story of Allie Kernan: https://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/Chat-with-Allison-Kernan-11240543.php
- Marijuana: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-parents-need-to-know/letter-to-parents
- Alcohol: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/adolescentflyer/adolflyer.htm
- Vaping: https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/the-teen-vaping-trend-what-parents-need-to-know/
Second, I am asking parents who have hosted or are considering hosting a party at which alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, are available to minors to please reconsider this choice. I am asking parents who are allowing their adolescents to attend such parties to please reconsider this choice. The consequences of doing so can be severe:
- Of late, police have been called to a number of parties and arrests have been made.
- Westchester County has a Social Host Law. This law “establishes fines for knowingly allowing a party, gathering, or event where minors are present and alcoholic beverages are consumed by one or more minors.” This means that the parent can be liable for “allowing” the party even if they do not provide the alcohol. The consequence is a violation of law for the first and second offense and a misdemeanor for the third and subsequent offenses. The punishment ranges from fines of $250 – $1,000 and the possibility of imprisonment up to one year. (Source)
- This article expands on the consequences of providing alcohol to minors.
Third and finally, help keep your children healthy and safe. I am asking parents to talk to your children about this article and the physical and psychological dangers of drug and alcohol use and abuse. Just as our student-athletes sign a pledge to remain drug and alcohol-free and should adhere to this commitment, all parents may consider asking their children to sign a family pledge to remain drug and alcohol-free.
Accordingly, if you are aware of a situation affecting a student or students with regard to alcohol or substance abuse, there are a number of ways to help that student.
- You may call BCSD's Student Assistance Counselors: FLMS, Tamara Tribble at 914-241-6026, or firstname.lastname@example.org; FLHS, Angela Alvarado at 914-241-6050, or email@example.com.
- You can file an Anonymous Alert, which will be picked up by the student’s principal and me.
- All residents are encouraged to report suspected house parties with alcohol or other substance to this tipline: 1-866-UNDER21. You just might save a life. This hotline is jointly sponsored by the NYS Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, The NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), and the NYS Police.
- You may contact your principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor, clinician, a trusted teacher, or our Director of Pupil Personnel Services, Dr. Ed Escobar at 914-241-6022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You may call me directly. I can be reached at (914) 241-6011 or email@example.com.
My staff and I will discreetly involve the right people to provide our youth with the intervention, protection, and support that they need.
Thank you for considering this article. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and your feedback on this issue.
In service, as both your Superintendent and as a concerned parent,
Dr. Christopher Manno,
Superintendent of Schools