NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – During the 2016-2017 school year, drugs were confiscated 106 times in Metro’s public high schools.
“I think one of the biggest challenges that we face in education, as it relates to adolescent drug use, is the general fact that students are being inquisitive. They’re using drugs, they’re experimenting with different things, without really understanding the harsh side effects or the potential dangers of that experimentation,” said Dr. Tony Majors, the Executive Officer for Students Services for Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Majors said the school system learns about student drug use in a few different ways.
“It could be anonymous tips, it could be a random search, where a drug dog may hit on something. It could be a direct tip from a student, and we have had parents and community members that have tipped us off because students may be in possession of drugs,” said Dr. Majors.
Traditionally, when there is a drug offense at a Metro school it is for marijuana, according to Dr. Majors.
However, he says the school system is seeing more opioid use in line with the national opioid epidemic.
He has advice for parents who may be worried about their children using drugs or being exposed to peers using drugs.
“The first thing I tell parents to do is set the boundaries and expectations within your home. Communicate openly and honestly about your expectations surrounding drug use,” he told News 2.
Dr. Majors also says parents need to be diligent.
“You can’t be afraid about your child’s sense of privacy to go in and flip a bedroom, search a backpack, to ask questions,” he said. “We need parents to be parents, not friends.”
About seven years ago, Majors says the school system began seeing a rise in the number of students expelled for drug use, and in response, administrators developed a “first time offenders” program.
“The child and parent are required to go to a Saturday drug education class with my staff and Bradford Health Services, in which they really go through a deep training on the effects of drugs, long term impact, health conditions,” said Dr. Majors.
If students and parents agree to this program, the student must submit to a drug test within 36 hours. The student must serve five days of out of school suspension, instead of being expelled for the entire school year.
“That program is running about an 87 percent success rate of students that do not re-offend with a second drug offense,” said Dr. Majors. “We have to address the problem. You know using drugs is often a symptom of something else. It could be adolescent experimentation, it could be depression, it could be stress, but we need to find out why the child is turning to drug use as a way of coping with whatever they’re facing.”