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Buffalo Grove High confronts heroin situation

By Erin Holmes
Daily Herald
September 5, 2000
Web posted at: 4:47 PM EDT (2047 GMT)

BUFFALO GROVE, Illinois (Daily Herald) -- In direct response to two recent student deaths from apparent heroin overdoses, Buffalo Grove High School plans to hold "emotional wellness" programs for students, parents and community members.

Educators say the deaths of Ryan Fried, 18, of Buffalo Grove and Dane Anderson, 17, of Arlington Heights, are signals of an urgent situation and prove a school can not offer too much drug education.

Stepping up efforts, however, might not matter to 10 percent of America's kids, who will experiment with drugs no matter what they learn in school, experts say, or the 10 percent who won't try a drug no matter what they hear.

It's the 80 percent in the middle, DARE America Director of Communications Ralph Lochridge said, that schools have to target.

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"The 80 percent ... are the ones you want to get to," Lochridge said. "They are the ones you want to provide with those life-skills. It's a matter of informing, and talking about what a particular drug does to destroy the mind and body."

That's where Buffalo Grove High School hopes nationally known speaker Lynn Kesselman can be effective. Kesselman is a drug and alcohol counselor who himself struggled through alcoholism in the early 1990s.

Kesselman will put a human face on a message to teens and parents that says people who are happy and in control of their lives won't turn to drugs or crime.

Bringing in someone like Kesselman, said Howard Simon, a spokesman for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, should strike a chord with teens by explaining the downfalls of drug use without using dry statistics.

That a school is taking such a step, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 administrators say, shows that they recognize the significant part of the drug puzzle schools play. They also say they know educators - as well as parents and community members - must be truthful with teens and explain the deadly side of drugs.

"Kids now are smarter than we were," Simon said. "They want the facts. They want to know what's happening. That's why being open and honest with them is so important."

Before heroin began registering on the high school radar screen, schools incorporated drug education units in classes and opened the subject to discussion.

The obvious equation of increased drug education leading to decreased drug use may seem simple, experts said, but there are always going to be instances when it just doesn't sink in.

That opens the gnawing question of how much kids actually listen and comprehend drug education material.

"You can't just throw scare tactics at them," says Stephen D. Berry, who served as District 214 superintendent until 1994.

"It has to be something the kids will believe. If they're in fact out there experiencing these things and finding them to be harmless, I think, you know, we have an obligation to try and share accurate information with them about the effect of those drugs."

Experts said use of harder-core drugs like heroin can mean a need for harder-core drug education. The national DARE program, which sends police officers into elementary, middle and high schools to teach drug abuse resistance education, has changed its curriculum nine times in recent years, revising the way it teaches and the content it teaches to fit the changing face of teenage drug use in America.

Drug abuse counselor Lynn Kesselman is scheduled to speak to Buffalo Grove High School students Tuesday at an all-school assembly and again at 7 p.m. in the school's theater at a program open to parents and community members.



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