Gangs and Drugs in More Than 25% of Public Schools, Survey Says

Posted by on August 22, 2010

Twenty-seven percent of public school students ages 12 to 17 say that their school has both gangs and drugs (drugs are used, kept or sold on school grounds), according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XV: Teens and Parents, the 15th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

The CASA survey revealed that one in three middle school students say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their school, a 39 percent increase since last year (32 percent in 2010 vs. 23 percent in 2009).

Compared to teens in families with strong Family Ties, teens in families with weak Family Ties are:

•Four times likelier to try tobacco;
•Four times likelier to try marijuana;
•Almost three times likelier to drink;
•Twice as likely to have a friend/classmate who abuses prescription drugs; and
•Twice as likely to have a friend/classmate who uses illegal drugs such as acid, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.

Other Key Findings Related to Teen Substance Use

•When teens that can get marijuana were asked who they would get it from, 76 percent said a friend/classmate; 30 percent said that their parents know the person supplying the marijuana.
•Eighty-six percent of parents support social host laws that make it illegal for parents to allow underage children (other than their own) to drink in their home.
•Seventy-five percent of teens say that teens they know who drink or use drugs are more likely to engage in sexual activity.
•Compared to teens who say that none of their friends drink regularly, those whose friends drink on a regular basis are 13 times likelier to have tried marijuana.
•Teens who have tried tobacco are 12 times likelier to have used marijuana compared to teens who have never tried tobacco

My Take on the Survey

At first, I was inclined to give a quick glance at the survey and move on. But given the U.S. Department of Education believes surveys are the best and most reliable source of data on school safety, I thought I’d take a closer look (even though I believe the fed’s overreliance on surveys is off-base and fails to take into account incident-based, law enforcement data in addition to surveys).

As you drill down into the survey results, you find more interesting details on gangs and drugs.  I encourage you to at least give it a good scan.  It gives a different perspective than what you may see or hear from other sources, especially inside the D.C. Beltway.

My gut feeling is the general trend of gang activity is going up in those schools around the nation where there is an active and/or growing  gang presence in the broader community. We’ll also see the typical drug trends with kids (alcohol, marijuana, etc.), along with the drugs-of-choice in the community at the time, show their ugly faces in our schools, too.  Given the declining economy and increased stressors on families, kids, and communities, it would be logical to think these issues risk increasing.

It is likely we may see an uptick in school gang and drug issues since the feds eliminated the formula grant component of the Safe and Drug Free Schools program.  And given the Department of Education is proposing a skewed focus on ‘incivility” and “bullying” and “climate,” it also makes me wonder if issues related to drugs, drug prevention, gangs, and violence will now take a back seat in federal school safety policy and funding.

The philosophical, political, and funding biases tend to swing from one extreme to another.  We never seem to strike a happy medium where a comprehensive and balanced approach to school safety is taken — whether we’re talking about the federal level or down to our local school-communities.

One thing is for sure:  If we continue to over-emphasize one particular area, issue, or strategy  over a comprehensive and balanced approach, we’re never going to get it right.

Ken Trump

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