School system working to keep kids off drugs

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An article in the Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor, posed the question of illegal drug use in our community. The drug awareness event, which was held in Duane Smith Auditorium, presented an opportunity for community members to voice concerns on illegal drug use.
As superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools, I would be naïve to say that drugs have not made their way into our schools and our community. But in saying this, I would state very affirmatively school staff and administration are very vigilant in identifying, responding to, and preventing drug use in schools. Moreover, our school board has in place firm and unequivocal policies aimed at keeping drugs and tobacco out of our schools while providing sensible second chances to young people who many have made a mistake.
Safe and civil schools are one of three non-negotiable goals of our school system. As such, staff and administration, in partnership with students, parents, and school resource officers are continually on alert for behaviors that suggest a student may be under the influence or in possession of illegal substances at school.
The recently released 2013 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, which can be viewed on youthrisk.org, provides a snapshot of student data for grades 9-12. Using this data helps us identify the proactive educational conversations that parents, the schools and the community can have with and about the at-risk behaviors our children.
The school district, in partnership with Los Alamos County, has created a continuum of services that are available to students and their families — many of these services are free of charge to students and parents and can be done at home. For example, Bernadette Lauritzen (Los Alamos Public Schools prevention specialist — 663-3252) is available for calls to help identify resources to assist families with children in school. Others deeply involved in providing assistance to students and families is the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. And, the Youth Resource Advocate coordinates services and offers resources to youth in need of intervention.
To help set the record straight from concerns raised at the recent forum, school staff works closely with students to prevent possession and drug use at schools. As part of that strategy, Los Alamos Middle and High School nurses annually present information to staff to recognize behaviors that leads to the identification of students exhibiting characteristics of being under the influence. As such, students are closely monitored by staff, wellness checks are conducted, and interviews with administration are held as strategies to create a drug-free learning environment.
As a school system, staff works tirelessly to help students identify and employ positive ways to reduce stress and avoid the temptation of drugs. I am very proud of the fact that all LAPS staff actively is involved with mentoring and connecting with our students. In the process, there are many school educational programs in place that help students address issues from a wide spectrum of no-use strategies, including intervention and prevention. And importantly, students are held responsible for their choices and behaviors through a disciplinary system.
Responding to issues of drug use in our community and schools requires a community effort. I met with Los Alamos County Administrator Harry Burgess, who expressed a strong interest and willingness to collaborate in this conversation. In addition, a meeting is scheduled with Police Chief Dino Sgambellone to converse more on this concern. By providing an information awareness night, Sgambellone has created an opportunity for a community conversation. It is through these conversations and community involvement that we can dialog to develop and implement solutions on the best ways to deal with the at-risk behaviors that students exhibit. Looking ahead, it is important to understand that schools cannot solve this problem alone.
In closing, just as in our community, there are opportunities for illegal drugs to enter our schools. As such, we stay on a constant and relentless vigil to eliminate them from our schools. Students are held accountable for their behavior. Eradication of drugs from our schools and community calls for a combined and committed effort from all. I invite you to join with me in seeking solutions to this problem.