Friday Forum Follow-Up

Foothill parents were scared straight at a Friday Forum featuring frank talk about alcohol and drug use among Pleasanton teens.


The nearly four dozen parents in attendance learned that marijuana and alcohol are the most common drugs abused by students, but OxyContin and other pharmaceuticals are gaining popularity.


“Pleasanton is a generally affluent community,” Ryan Dawson, school resource officer, said. “If you have a lot of money, you have the money for drugs.”


Since OxyContin is expensive on the street – as high as $120 per pill – some students are turning to less expensive heroine as a way to achieve a high similar to the kind they get with OxyContin, Dawson said.


One way to stay on top of teen drug abuse is to know the warning signs, Dawson noted. Students who abuse drugs can be lethargic and “out of it” with slow movements and droopy eyelids.


“The eyes tell everything,” Dawson said, giving parents an extended lesson in how to spot drug abuse by simply looking in a person’s eyes. Some drugs cause pinpoint pupils, while others cause dilated pupils. Drugs make it difficult for a user to track a moving finger with their eyes.


It’s crucial for parents to know what’s in their medicine cabinets and lock up any drugs that could be abused, Principal John Dwyer said. Get rid of medicine you don’t use, like Vicodin left over from surgery.


Remember that grandparents and older relatives and friends often times have many drugs easily accessed by teens. Warn older relatives to keep their medications under lock and key.


A new trend among teens is tweaking – taking several medicines, prescription or over-the-counter, and mixing them to see what happens, Dwyer noted.


“They’re self-medicating to try to take away the pain in their lives,” he said.


Cell phones are an important tool in knowing what’s going on in your child’s life, Vice Principal Mark McCoy said. He encouraged parents to check their children’s phone calls and text messages to see what they’re up to.


“This is a huge resource to look at and find out what your child is doing,” McCoy said.


It’s also important to know who your kids are hanging out with, Dawson said. There aren’t any particular hot spots around town, but any place with lots of unsupervised teens can turn into trouble.


The park directly behind Foothill, notorious for drug use, has been cleaned up in recent weeks, thanks to frequent patrols by police and school administrators.


“We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in these scruffy looking characters hanging out there,” Dwyer said. Dealers have been run off. “We’re trying to keep that park safe for our kids to go to school.”


Parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about what students are seeing around campus.


“Talk to your kids (and) have them talk to their friends,” Vice Principal Lori Vella said. “When they hear something or see something, have them text you – not during class – and then you can call us. If they wait until after school to tell you, it’s too late. Getting the information the next day doesn’t do us any good. By then, the drugs have been sold or used.”


School administrators must have “reasonable suspicion” before they can search a student or backpack. This is a more lenient standard than the probable cause police need for searches.


Students and parents who report potential drug and alcohol problems on campus are guaranteed anonymity.


“We can’t stop this problem alone,” Vella said. “Everyone needs to get on the same page. If we have a critical mass getting involved, we can make an impact.”


“We are really trying to be aggressive in our approach to indentifying the problem and dealing with it,” Dwyer said.


The next Friday Forum for parents will once again focus on the problem of drugs and alcohol use among teens. The keynote speaker will be Pleasanton police Sgt. Jim Knox, a well-known drug expert. Please note that the February forum will be held on Thursday, Feb. 17 to accommodate Sgt. Knox’s schedule.

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2011