The war on drugs
Critics are questioning the validity of a statewide report showing that Bristol and Warren school students are among the most frequent users of drugs and alcohol in the state of Rhode Island. Their arguments don't have merit.
If some group of students at Mt. Hope High School and Kickemuit Middle School skewed the self-reported survey results by answering falsely or not taking it seriously, then students at all high and middle schools would have done the same. So if you throw out the results from Bristol and Warren students providing false answers, then throw them out for all schools throughout Rhode Island. Do that, and Mt. Hope and Kickemuit still sit at the top of the list for many of the worst offenses, like cocaine use, abuse of prescription drugs, and going to school under the influence of drugs.
The news is startling. For decades, we have seen the headlines (heck, we've written many of the headlines) reporting bad behavior among the high school population in neighboring Barrington. Rarely has the spotlight shone on Mt. Hope or Kickemuit.
Now it is. Now we can't help but look at this school-age population differently and admit that this community has a problem. And be certain that it is a community problem. It is not the responsibility of the public schools to regulate all teenager behavior. That is a shared responsibility among the educators, parents, police officers and civic leaders in these towns.
Yet before we rush off in search of solutions — stiffer penalties! drug-sniffing dogs! — this community should ask one simple question. Why?
Why are Bristol and Warren teenagers among the most frequent drug and alcohol users in Rhode Island?
Ask and answer that question first, and the solutions become much easier.