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posted: 12/13/2013 5:00 AM

Message to teens about drugs is the wrong one

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  • Ryan Croft

    Ryan Croft

By Ryan Croft

"From our perspective, any number above one is too many," a high school spokesman said in February 2012, referencing the suspensions of upward of 40 kids for texting about drugs, mainly marijuana.

The spokesman's quote demonstrates the immediate goal that is apparent at most high schools: No student should be doing drugs. It's a concise message, and a majority of parents and even students probably agree, but I believe this is the wrong approach -- not in the sense that students should be using drugs, but in the mindset of educators when talking to teens about the topic.

These suspensions occurred at my school, Stevenson High School, and after various new programs and seminars were introduced -- aiming at that almighty goal of eliminating teen drug use -- I can say that it flat-out hasn't worked. Sure, students now understood not to text about drugs during school, but the actual use has not subsided, and the actual education did not increase. And this is not the specific school's fault. It is because of the majority of public high schools giving in to this flawed mindset about drug education.

Whether one is for or against legalization of drugs, everyone can agree that drug education for teenagers is important. Yet, why is it that many teens really don't learn much about the ingredients in drugs other than through using them outside of school? Is doing drugs the only way to teach someone about them? Of course not. Still, drug education in high schools is virtually nonexistent.

Instead, the focus is on drug prevention. A school's goal isn't to teach kids about drugs -- what's in them, what's the history behind them, etc. -- it's to tell kids why they shouldn't do drugs. Don't get me wrong, drug prevention is important, but more so is real education about them.

The goal of getting every student not to use drugs is impossible. What isn't impossible is to educate kids about harmful drugs to get them to understand what they're putting into their bodies. I'm not advocating drug use, but I'm not going to advocate false information either. I want honesty in drug education in schools.

The current "drugs will kill you" message that high schools spread is a deceit that students eventually catch on to, especially when statistics like Monitoring the Future's annual survey from 2012 show that one in four high school seniors used marijuana in the past month.

When a high school teacher preaches about the dangers of a drug, then students try it and discover it may not be all that bad, what reason do they have to listen to the educator? For example, when a majority of kids have tried marijuana, showing anti-drug ads of "stoners" and saying they are significantly harming themselves distorts real messages schools need to spread, such as the dangers of synthetic marijuana (commonly known as K2 or spice). Students won't trust what they are hearing. As school officials will say, honesty is always the best policy, and that applies here too.

• Ryan Croft is a senior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.

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