Questioning a drug culture

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:10

    WESTFALL - Eight years after they instituted a still controversial drug testing program at school, drug use and parent indifference remain sensitive subjects at Delaware Valley. The topic arose when Diane French, mother of student preparing to enter middle school, asked the board, “I’m concerned. I keep hearing about a drug culture at Delaware Valley.” French said she’s heard troubling rumors and has been cautioned by friends locally, in Wallenpaupack and Port Jervis. French’s question came shortly after two previously expelled students were readmitted by board of education vote and district attorney Michael Weinstein commented that the year’s first two months had passed without any new expulsions. Still, Superintendent Dr. Candis Finan said, “There should be concern about drugs.... It’s everywhere.” Despite repeated district efforts to curb drug usage, officials said the families of those students most at risk often seem indifferent or in some cases, even opposed to district efforts. Finan said the district has had an active role, but the effort has been frustrating. “We have programs, but participation is poor until someone gets sick. What more can we do?” she asked. She recalled a meeting held at Dingman-Delaware, where only seven people showed up. “I was embarrassed,” she admitted. Board Vice-Chairman John Wroblewski reiterated Finan’s point. “We’ve called people to meetings, but the people that show up are administrators and parents of kids who are not involved.” The district is often able to identify the families who should attend by the student’s extra-curricular activity record. “In almost every expulsion, the students have not been involved in after-school or extra-curricular activities,” Finan said. Prescription drugs left around the home have become a problem. “I’ve pleaded with parents to get rid of them. Kids think it’s fun to do,” she said. Drug usage also appears to be an inherited trait, she said. “A lot of the parents are (or were) drug users themselves. They’re addicted themselves and the kids fall into the trap.” “We’ve had parents tell us they think there is nothing wrong with taking drugs. They’ve told us that,” said Board Member Jack Fisher. Still, Wroblewski, who is a pharmacist, went on to defend the district, saying, “I don’t believe Delaware Valley has any more of a drug problem than any other district. It’s not exceptional here.” After arrests for heroin sales in 1998, the distict began drug testing of all students involved in sports, after-school and extra-curricular activities. Program opponents launched a court challenge, but the lawsuit was dropped several years later, even though a state appeals court ruled that the parents were entitled to bring legal action. The testing program is still in place for students, but does not cover faculty. Questioned last week, Finan said it was not in the proposed new faculty contract either. However, many staff members are tested voluntarily.