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By Hilde Kate Lysiak
Do you take any responsibility for the rise in hard drugs? Do just really believe weed is just as bad as heroin? What can parents do to help you keep students safe? Superintendent Chad Cohrs answered these questions and more in a sit down in a one-on-one interview with the OSN.
As part of an ongoing investigation, the Orange Street News has been exclusively covering the serious drug problem at Selinsgrove High School. The OSN has already spoken to concerned students and parents, now Selinsgrove Superintendent Cohrs has agreed to sit down for one-on-one interview. Here is the full transcript of what he said:
OSN: I know you are busy, so I’m just going to jump right into the questions.
OSN: First, I know this problem isn’t unique to Selinsgrove and I know its something that is happening all over the country, but can you tell me some of the things Selinsgrove has been facing, some of the challenges?
CC: Sure. We certainly, like all schools across the state and across the country, have students who use drugs and alcohol. Sometimes students will come to school under the influence of medication or drugs or alcohol, that they typically have taken before they come to school. Sometimes students will have with them in school drugs, typically drugs, not to typically alcohol, with them.
OSN: And what do you do about that?
CC: Well, if a student is under the influence of drugs or alcohol we treat it as what we call a medical emergency which means the first thing we do is have the nurse check out the student and then we will typically call the the ambulance to come check out the student and take the student to the hospital to be examined there as well. And then if the student is found to be under the influence of substances then we will also contact the police and the police will press charges from their end. If we find a student who simply has drugs in their possession we will contact the police right away and inevitably confiscate whatever substances they have and again contact the parents as well as usually we will suspend the student from school.
OSN: Can you tell me a little bit about how the drug problem at Selinsgrove has changed since you first came to the school?
CC: I think the only way that its really changed is in the type of drugs that students use. Students have, over my time in Selinsgrove, there have always been some students who have had or used drugs while in school. I think the thing that has changed is the type of drug they have been using. Its more and more prescription drugs now its not just marijuana, although there is still a little of that, its more prescription medications and leading into stronger illegal drugs.
OSN: How many instances have there been where you had to call an ambulance or the police because a student was found possessing drugs?
CC: We’ve only had one instance where we had to call an ambulance where the student has been under the influence here at school. There have been probably three..three or four instances where students have been found to be in possession of substances. Either a drug or whats called a look-a-like drug, something that supposed to that they are maybe trying to sell and say that its a certain type of drug. It may not be. But they are tying to pass it off as that.
OSN: Let’s move on to whats being done to stop this problem. The Orange Street News has learned that drug dogs have come into schools and sniff lockers every now and then for drugs, but sources told the Orange Street News, students told the Orange Street News, that the dogs don’t go into the actual classrooms where the students are so now more students are keeping the drugs on them. So have you considered letting the dogs into the classrooms?
CC: We’ve talked about it but legally we can’t do that. That’s part of a state law and constitutional right that we can’t have the dogs search the students. So the only way we can search students is if we as a school have reasonable suspicion that they may have drugs or alcohol in their possession.
OSN: How do you…How do you suspect that they have drugs?
CC: Usually someone will report that another student may have or that they saw another student with drugs.
OSN: In the letter you sent home from parents you mention, and I quote, no drugs are better than others, but do you really think that? I mean, do you really think that weed is the same thing as heroin?
CC: I think the short answer is yes. I don’t think there is any drug that is more dangerous than another because all drugs can lead to the same result because what to one person may not have a major effect to another person that could actually kill them and so to me there’s not a difference between a degree of drugs.
OSN: So you think that weed is not worse than…Heroin is not worse than weed?
CC: It can be as far as reaction to people but to me its still a drug. And a drug is a drug and I don’t think a student should be using any kind of drugs.
OSN: As the leader of the school district, do you take any responsibility in the recent rise in hard drugs?
CC: Responsibility? I’d say my responsibility is to try to prevent it and to try to get students help that are using substances.
OSN: And what are you doing to get students help?
CC: When we identify students we refer them to our students assistance committee and through that students assistance committee we can get them signed up for drug and alcohol counseling with a trained counselor.
OSN: Students I spoke with say there aren’t much the schools can do. They just say that its mainly the parents that need to pay more attention. And in the letter you sent…in the letter you sent out to parents, you also said that you need help. What exact help do you need?
CC: Its really parents stepping forward to A, watch their own children. Make sure they know what their kids are doing, where they are at, and confiscating their cell phone occasionally and checking to see what text messages they’ve sent and who they are communicating with. And I think the other big piece from parents and community in general is if they have information about students who are using drugs and having drugs the first call they need to make is to the police to report the student and be able to give their names and not just give an anonymous phone call because whether we as a school or whether the police get a phone call from somebody who is not willing to give names or detailed information theres not a lot we can do about it. Its people coming forward to provide enough evidence to the school, and more importantly that the police can fully investigate it.
OSN: What do you have to say to the mom who is considering pulling their child out of school because of the drug use to let them know that you will keep their child safe from the drug problem?
CC: Well certainly we try to keep all students safe. Can I say their student is never going to encounter another student who has drugs? No. But I don’t think keeping their child home is going to keep them safe either. Because they still walk around town. They still go to the mall. They still have the same access to drugs and alcohol whether in school or out of school.
OSN: Alright. Well, thank you very much for agreeing to speak with me.
CC: Your welcome. Thank you.