Don’t blame the schools; check your home first... Posted in the March 18, 2008, Tomahawk Leader
That sums up Tomahawk School District Administrator Al Prosser’s feeling after last Wednesday’s lockdown and drug discoveries – the largest ever on school grounds.
He says he’s spent a lifetime talking about the importance of education, and “now I have to build cases that probably will take education away from people.”
Prosser says people seem to blame the schools for the drug problems, but it’s a community problem.
“I don’t hand out prescription drugs. I don’t hand out illegal drugs,” he’s quick to stress.
Prosser said Friday that School Board policy dictates that students found with illegal substances are immediately suspended from school. That has been done. The district must then hold expulsion hearings within 15 school days. The hearing dates for these infractions will follow spring break, he indicated.
Three expulsion hearings already scheduled the week of March 24 were previously pending and are for unrelated incidents, he observes.
Canine searches are used every year as a way to keep drugs “out of the schools,” Prosser says. This, he pointed out, is the first time drugs have actually been found within the school building. In past instances, drugs or related paraphernalia were sniffed out in cars in the parking lot.
Students were sequestered in their classrooms or the location they were at when the lockdown began about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. No one was allowed to move about the hallways. The lockdown took about two hours and students were released just about dismissal time, he related.
Law prohibits personal searches, so the specially-trained dogs did not enter any classrooms, he added.
What was noticed, Prosser said, was a tremendous amount of text messaging between students using cell phones, which, he noted, are not permitted in their possession in class. That, he said, is a whole added issue that needs addressing.
A recent series of expulsions in the Merrill Area Public Schools District found a similar trend, Prosser says. Prescription drugs are a growing threat. The “pill of choice” is different in Tomahawk – it’s OxyContin, a pain pill, here – but the phenomenon is evident and growing.
Students can bring their own prescription medication to school, if needed, but it must be checked in with a nurse who oversees dispersal, Prosser says.
Heaven forbid if a student took an unknown, non-prescribed drug or mixed it with something and had an allergic reaction and died, Prosser said of one of his worse nightmares.
“I used to think it (drugs) were not present (in the schools),” he stated. But, now, the administrator says he’s come to realize it’s “as common as common could be. And someone could end up dead if they make the wrong choice.”
Prescription drugs also were the topic of special comments by Middle School Principal Mitch Hamm at last week’s Tomahawk School Board meeting – the night before Wednesday’s search. Speaking about prior incidents that are now headed for expulsion hearings, Hamm shared what the school is doing to educate students about the dangers of drug possession and use. But he called upon the community to get more involved, too.
“It’s a community problem,” he stated, “not a middle school problem; not a ‘school district’ problem.”
Board president Pete Wurl termed it a “call to action.”
Go home tonight, he urged everyone, and look in the medicine cabinet for expire drugs. Take them to the police or hospital for proper disposal. (Editor's update: the police told us today that they do not accept old medication. We will research how best to dispose of items and let you know.)
The drugs, we’re told, are coming from the home – the homes of unaware parents and grandparents.
It is a community problem, and it needs our utmost attention. Do your own homework and take ownership. We’re all – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors – part of the solution.