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Local students looking for solutions to curb drug use

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Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:00 pm

Lodi High teachers and principal Bill Atterberry have challenged students to suggest a solution to the drug use that they say has touched every grade and every group on campus.

Students and educators at both Lodi and Tokay High Schools, are trying to quell drug abuse with school assemblies, peer education, campus security and extracurricular activities.

At Lodi High, student government classes have been organizing an assembly by a Stockton group called Radical Reality. The team's five 30- and 40-something motivational speakers travel to schools, performing feats of strength like breaking bricks and phone books - to signify the power they have gained by overcoming drugs.

A group of seniors said they started to get concerned early in the school year, when more students seemed to be using cocaine, marijuana, prescription painkillers and other drugs.

"It seemed as we got closer to the winter break we were hearing about it more," said senior class president Megan Bedford, 17.

Tokay's approach has traditionally been less "anti-drug." Instead teachers and administrators focus on extracurricular activities.

"Get them healthy first," said vice principal Martha Dent.

Sheila Abdellah, conflict management teacher, said she tries to build bonds with peer-to-peer programs.

Bedford, student body president Mark Sieglock, 18, and student body vice president Greg Levy, 18, all said they have never drank alcohol or gotten high. But they know others who do. And they want it to stop.

"Students just see the immediate consequences, not the future," Sieglock said.

Atterberry said students, parents and teachers have all expressed concerns.

"It's becoming a student safety problem," he said.

Lodi High School drug awareness meeting

Student drug use has risen dramatically, according to Lodi High officials.
"Our most valuable allies in combating teenage substance abuse on and off campus are our parents," they said.
Parents are urged to attend an informational meeting at the school, led by Lodi Police Department officers and school administrators.
When: Thursday, Jan. 18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Lodi High south gym.
Information: 331-7819, 331-7695, 331-7650, 331-7676.

Parents are invited to an information meeting led by police and school administrators, on Jan. 18. Atterberry stressed the meeting is not aimed at starting a witchhunt, nor will it be a discussion about drug-sniffing dogs.

"Parents aren't stupid," he said. "But they frequently say 'not my kid.'"

In the weeks after the assembly, student government representatives and peer educators will visit each classroom for more discussions.

"(It is) presenting how to make good decisions rather than the poor ones," Sieglock said.

Abdellah, who has been at Tokay for 21 years, said addressing drugs is done on an individual basis, with administrators and counselors involved with discipline and substance abuse treatment.

About 60 to 70 students are involved in the conflict management team, which attempts to iron out differences between individuals. Another group is called SPIRIT. About 20 students and members of the community from all cultural groups address campus issues over a two-year period. Freshman-senior mentoring is another activity.

"If kids feel more connected to school, they'll feel more empowered, and feel able to make positive choices," Abdellah said.

Contact reporter Kendyce Manguchei at kendycem@lodinews.com.

First published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

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