Thursday, November 14, 2019

What's Happening in SPS High Schools with Drugs/Alcohol?

From Forgetful,
I'm curious (concerned) about drug and alcohol use among SPS high schoolers.
Kiddo tells me that kids have passed around alcohol at school, are sometimes buzzed in class (says teachers don't notice or don't care), drugs are easily available, and juuling is rampant. This isn't even touching on what happens out of school hours/parties etc.
There have been some deaths publicized but thats just the tip of the iceberg. I really don't know what to make of it. I mean i expect some experimentation in the teenage years but not really during school hours and not to such an extent.
What do other folks hear? Is it as bad as I'm lead to believe? How do kids/families navigate this? I mean we talk about it with kiddo and obviously discourage it but feels like its an uphill battle when it considered cool to do it and its so widespread.
What is SPS doing to address this?
Basic Rules of SPS 

Students Rights and Responsibilities

Prevention and Intervention
Students are taught about drugs and alcohol through evidence-based curricula which are proven to reduce experimental and continued use of substances. These curricula, such as Project ALERT, Project SUCCESS, LifeSkills Training, motivate students against substance use by delivering facts about drugs and their use, providing them with skills and strategies to resist and refuse drugs and helping them establish beliefs and attitudes to maintain non-use. Several of our schools have on-site Prevention and Intervention Specialists to provide classroom education, group counseling, and family outreach and engagement. 

We also currently support two Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI) coalitions, the Healthy Youth Central Area Network (HYCAN) and the South West Seattle Youth Alliance (SWSYA>), which aim to create healthier communities by building strengths in families, schools and neighborhoods. 

Possessing, using, distributing and selling of drugs and/or alcohol on school property violate school board policy. For more information on SPS’ disciplinary procedures, please visit the Discipline webpage. For a list of substance use treatment agencies, please refer to the “SPS Assessment Resources” document in the resource column.
The Prevention and Intervention page also includes a link to the Healthy Youth survey data.

Story from the Seattle Weekly from Jan. 2019
Franklin High School Assistant Principal Annie Patu noticed in 2017 that the school’s shift in addressing substance use from a more punitive to a restorative approach was working when a ninth-grade student who had used marijuana was referred to a treatment program that helped the kid get clean. The student has not had any referrals in the past couple of years, and was exposed to leadership opportunities through counseling. “I think that this particular kid just wanted to be seen and heard and found an alternative route to doing that through music and theater,” Patu said.
The Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook prohibits students from possessing drugs and alcohol on campus. Prior to the procedure changes in 2017, students who violated the policy were subject to disciplinary action, which usually came in the form of long-term suspensions. “It was very rigid previously,” said Lisa Davidson, SPS Manager of Prevention and Intervention. But after 2017, the school district moved from an exclusionary approach to one that allows students to remain in school if they agree to treatment resources. 

At Franklin High School, kids caught possessing alcohol or drugs are met by administrators and given the option of completing a drug mediation agreement to avoid long-term suspension. The assessment determines whether the student needs more treatment or drug-education classes.


Anonymous said...

There was a drug info night at BHS to talk about the danger in Seattle and surrounding areas of fentanyl laced drugs. A district representative (forget her name) stated some drug, alcohol and smoking stats for 10th graders at Ballard. The numbers were not good and she said were higher than overall district average. Same is true at our other high schools in the area. Around 1/3 had reported vaping in the past 30 days. Very glad that the vaping shop across the street closed up shop recently. There were also high stats for marijuana and alcohol use past 30 days. Much less for smoking cigarettes or taking other drugs.

BH parent

Anonymous said...

Affluence + anxiety = potentially higher drug use?



Anonymous said...


Except most are definitely not rich but middle class, or perhaps upper middle class. Our family as one example lives on one public servant salary below median in Seattle. Stop with the wealthy vs poor kids dichotomy. Ballard is not Lakeside or U Prep.

Another BH Parent

Anonymous said...

My kid said that kids talk about drugs frequently - for some, it seems cool to do so. Purportedly ready access to drugs. He has not noticed kids high or tipsy at school. This is at Lincoln, where there are only freshman and sophomores. I assume any potential drug problem at Lincoln will get worse as these kids become juniors and seniors.


Anonymous said...

This may be helpful 2018 10th grade survey. In general what I noticed is that Seattle district is much higher than the state average.



Anonymous said...

Agree, @Another, that "rich" may not be the right descriptor, but middle to upper middle class in Seattle is wealthy by comparison to many other parts of the country.

"Teens who attend high-achieving schools in well-to-do communities may be more vulnerable to drug and alcohol problems than their less well-off peers, a new study from the Northeast U.S. suggests...Overall, the study found higher rates of drinking to the point of intoxication and the use of pot among the wealthier students than among kids in the general U.S. population....When asked for some possible reasons to explain the study findings, Luthar pointed to the academic pressure to achieve in schools , the financial means the students have to obtain fake IDs and gain access to drugs and alcohol, as well as a peer group culture in which the use of drugs and alcohol at parties is accepted and expected."

This does not seem like a new finding - the narrative aligns with my experience in the middle to upper middle class suburban schools where I grew up. Alcohol and marijuana use was not uncommon. Schools are now dealing with opioid use - some public and private school have moved to drug testing students randomly 1X per year. If they test positive, they are given confidential drug counseling.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting Melissa. I checked out the health youth survey stats as suggested.
Last year around a quarter of SPS 10th graders reported having used alcohol or marijuana or vaping in the past month. About 50% reported having ever used/tried alcohol and about 30% had used/tried marijuana vaping ever. By 12th grade it went up to around 60% and 50% respectively.
I wonder how much variation among schools/neighborhood there is, and also whether there is much difference between public and private schools in this regard. Do folks see this as an unavoidable part of growing up in a US city today and there is nothing we can do about it other than educate your kiddo and hope they make good choices? Are there things anyone has done to try to reduce the temptation/exposure eg, changing schools, family rules/supervision, etc?


Anonymous said...

I think experimentation with drugs and alcohol is always going to be a part of growing up (at least for many teens). That said, flagrant drug use and vaping on campus (sometimes in the classroom) feels like a different problem. If these kids felt connected, felt seen, or really felt like what they were doing in the classroom mattered, I don't know if they would bop off to the bathroom to smoke pot. I'm not blaming the problem on teachers, who are doing everything they can to keep their classes engaged and who often deal with 30+ kids with a wide range of abilities and needs. But I feel like there must be a larger issue at play here.

I know some of these kids. Their parents are involved, but not too pushy about homework and grades. They are loved. They are supported. They live in a stimulating city with endless cultural and sports offerings. When I was growing up in the sleepy suburbs, the lack of things to do seemed to drive risky behavior. What's compelling these kids to consume literally under their teachers' noses?

A puzzlement

Anonymous said...

What are kids supposed to think when their parents drink? When their parents drink and then drive?

My approach was to:

1st, I stopped consuming any alcohol when the kids were in middle school.
2nd, I told them(my kids and their friends), that they should wait until college to try weed because it's a felony if they get charged with distribution, it will go on their record if they get suspended, and, finally, they have the rest of their lives to smoke after they turn 18.

Now at UW, they are told to be careful with booze, that 90% of sexual assaults involve alcohol.
Also, if they get caught smoking weed all that happens is confiscation.

I did hear about drugs at Ballard, and one thing that really bugged me was that the big school fundraisers always serve alcohol.

Like the Performing Arts fundraiser. There are over a hundred kids performing yet hard liquor and beer are used to "loosen up" the parents so that they will donate. Same at the Bash.

If Ballard wants to promote a drug-free lifestyle maybe they should start walking the walk.

Beaver Parent

Anonymous said...

In WA state, legal age for marijuana is 21. Student responses to the BHS health survey indicated that of those who had tried marijuana, 20% lived with someone who used marijuana. Something to think about.

Our child was drug tested to qualify for an internship outside of WA state. That was strong incentive to stay drug free.

think ahead

Anonymous said...

What are kids supposed to think when their parents drink?

Really, we want to push abstinence?

I'm not sure that parental behavior is a big driver of teen behavior when it comes to substance use. Maybe with addiction (and genetic predisposition), but not use.

My parents drink a lot, but that doesn't make me want to. My kids see me drink responsibly, which I think is a much more valuable lesson than seeing me feel I need to abstain under some idea that I would't be able to control myself otherwise. And seeing me drink in moderation demystifies alcohol a bit--maybe makes it not seem so cool.

My parents didn't try drugs, but I experimented. I know a lot of parents today who also don't do drugs but whose kids are rumored to. In general, I think peers are a MUCH more important factor in drug and alcohol use than is parent use behavior.

Talking your kids about all the risks involved, including to their still-developing brains, is also important, of course. As it letting them know they can contact you if they are in a dangerous situation and you will be understanding.

walk responsibly

Anonymous said...


My point to my kids and their friends was that I don't need alcohol to have fun with others or to relax.

It was to show them that I would never drink and then get into a car and drive.

It turned out that not consuming alcohol made me feel better physically and I have no interest in drinking again.

Maybe you forgot how one begins to drink - it isn't tasty or fun at first. You have to build up up to where you can feel buzzed. And then you get used to it and it becomes a habit.

I tried it myself(stopping) and related my experience to the young people that I knew.

I think kids want to fit in, get over anxiety, and act like adults. I chose
to set an example for them that I thought would be positive.

I didn't lecture them, except about getting in trouble for weed that could impact their college acceptance. I just never drank. They never saw me drink alcohol.

As far as weed, I think it is far less dangerous to everyone. I do smoke a little and I think the kids might have known, but I didn't promote it and I really think if they go through life never drinking but puffing some some weed now and then, they will be far less likely to get into trouble or traffic accidents.

I partied a lot in HS and I didn't want to see the problems, including death of classmates, that I saw back then, in my kids and their friends, or any kids.

It turns out these kids I know partied without drugs during HS, if you can still call it partying. But they got together for parties and as far as I know, never drank or smoked weed.

As we see this week the college kids dying from alcohol at SDSU and WSU, again I wonder why BHS serves alcohol at their events which are featuring students performing.

It's child abuse IMO.

Go Beavs

Anonymous said...


The phrase "drinking responsibly" is an alcohol industry talking point. Consuming a solvent that kills cells in your body, mainly heart cells, increases risky behavior, is linked to 90% of sexual assaults on college campuses, tens of thousands of traffic deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries per year is not "responsible" in my opinion.

Maybe if it wasn't advertised; but alcohol is practically glorified. I think it's a sad commentary that every grocery store and now drug stores are full of beer and hard liquor. I keep thinking of the women and her baby and parents mowed down near Eckstein several years ago by a drunken driver with multiple convictions.

Alcohol has destroyed many, many lives and families.


Anonymous said...

I find that Americans have a weird relationship with alcohol. Europeans have a much healthier relationship with alcohol. My parents never drank but boy did I drink in college. My parents didn't smoke weed either but I never really did either. So my parents behaviors didn't really influence my behaviors. I drank with all the other engineering students in college but didn't smoke weed because I didn't like it. I no longer drink like I did in college and only occasionally have a drink now. Alcohol is legal for those over 21 and I see no reason not to have it in moderation at adult events. I think modeling moderation is better example to for kids.


Anonymous said...

Denny PTA meeting had a speaker last night re: vaping.

Fed Up

Anonymous said...

I agree with HP - parental involvement and open, direct, honest conversations about substance abuse definitely make a difference, but I'm not sure how important it is that parents "never" drink, smoke, etc. My parents might as well have been teetotalers, but I drank like a fish in high school and college. Something tells me that engagement in a larger community - a sports team, church/synagogue/mosque, theater or band - could also make a difference. Kids need to feel like they are needed, like they are a part of something larger than themselves. Just a thought.

A puzzlement

Anonymous said...

"...Overall, the study found higher rates of drinking to the point of intoxication and the use of pot among the wealthier students than among kids in the general U.S. population..."

It almost all comes down to money. Where are these children getting the money to purchase these rather expensive items. They are using them in middle school and they don't get the money from working. They are getting the money from their parents and parents are then not keeping track of how it is spent.

The second issue is that more and more schools are being told that they should not suspend students or even really discipline them, so students know that there will be very little consequence to their actions. I wonder if students vaping in school and class isn't them trying to get some adults attention.

Mom said...

This is what Seattle should do.