The national statistics reflect the findings in the Lenape Regional High School District’s most recent Violence and Vandalism Report, which also shows an increase in drug and alcohol use, possession and distribution.
Risky and dangerous behaviors among youth in Burlington County, including illegal drug possession, distribution and use, underage drinking, and driving while intoxicated has been steadily on the rise since 2007. Particularly troubling is the fact that the average age for the first use of alcohol in Burlington County is 10.8 years old, significantly below the state average of 12.5 years and the national average of 14 years. The average age of onset for the county’s students using marijuana is 12.8 years old. Early marijuana use may become a gateway to addictive substances.
Students who engage in these risky behaviors may not show immediate or obvious signs of drug or alcohol abuse. They may attend school regularly, do their homework, participate in extracurricular activities and maintain busy social lives. They appear to be average, happy, healthy teenagers, with one exception: they are using and abusing drugs and alcohol. And, at some point, the odds are the choices they are making will affect their interest in school, their academic achievement, social life, and most important, their health and well-being.
Each principal and district administrator has made a commitment to engage parents in what we consider an imperative conversation about substance abuse.
Our efforts were highlighted during the week of Oct. 18, 2010 through a wide range of activities at all of our high schools. The programs were designed to educate and engage students to promote safe and healthy lifestyle choices no matter where they are: in school and at extracurricular activities, while driving and at home.
Visit www.DefyTheIssue.org for details about activities for students as well as parents and community members, and perhaps make time in your schedule to join us for a presentation and discussion.
We are appealing to parents and community members to join us…because our efforts will not be effective without your support. As your children enter middle and high school, stay involved in their lives. We know that may not always be easy, but the Lenape District website includes many resources that may help. Among them are tips on how parents and community members can walk that fine line of maintaining open communication with children while giving them the freedom they need to make their own safe and intelligent decisions.
As a community, we can all work together to be sure every child receives the support and freedom he or she needs to lead healthy, happy and productive lives in high school and beyond.