South steps up drug, alcohol prevention

By Alex Gershanov
Published: October 2009

Despite recent drug and alcohol-related incidents in the city, Principal Joel Stembridge, housemasters, and Prevention/Intervention Counselor Rich Catrambone will continue normal efforts to deter students from unsafe behaviors.

Both Stembridge and Catrambone believe the school is adequately addressing prevention around drug use and underage drinking.

Catrambone explained that, based on information gathered through surveys, South students’ marijuana and alcohol usage has actually gone down in the past 10 years.

His data show student use of marijuana at least once in their lives (also referred to as “lifetime usage) fell from 41.3 to 33 percent. Within 10 years, lifetime alcohol usage fell from 73.1 to 57 percent.

Additionally, when asked how much alcohol students consumed in the 30 days preceding the survey, the amount saw a 14.5 percent reduction in these same ten years.

“When I first came here, our numbers were higher than national and state averages, Catrambone said, commenting on South’s improving situation.

Yet the administration is attempting to further reduce these numbers through a variety of student-centered outreach programs and seminars.

Stembridge believes that although South is not a completely drug-free school, it succeeds in communicating its concerns related to dangerous decision-making.

No school system, small or large, has completely avoided what are, in fact, national issues.

Only recently, a South dropout affiliated with marijuana distribution was arrested on September 30 on charges of “kidnapping and armed robbery, according to an article published by The Newton TAB.

The Newton Tab soon after published another article regarding minors purchasing alcohol in the area.

Responding to “anonymous complaints, undercover Newton police officers posed as cashiers at the Newton Corner Mart. Over the course of four days, they caught 90 minors attempting to purchase alcohol. According to several South students, some of these minors were current and former students of South.

“Administratively, we have very little tolerance for drugs, but we’ve already had students who have brought drugs to school this year, Stembridge said.

Despite current events, the South community generally does not appear overly-concerned with student involvement with drug and alcohol use.

“Drugs pose a minor problem to the few people who abuse them and put them as a priority over schoolwork and extracurricular activities, junior Oliver Baverstam said.

“Regarding the charges of kidnapping and armed robbery, I think that is a highly unfortunate, isolated event involving deeply troubled youths, and deeply troubled youths are certainly not only particular or specific to South, parent Jane Maxwell said.

“My concern is that when students are using marijuana, they are not as ready to learn.” — Principal Joel Stembridge

Independent of recent events, Catrambone, Stembridge, and the housemasters have been trying to develop strong proactive outreach and more effective links to students.

Catrambone believes that recent law changes have, unfortunately, weakened the consequences of being caught in possession of marijuana.

“If a kid brings a joint to school, he’s only going to get $100 fine, he said.

Stembridge maintains that drug usage is not conducive to a healthy learning environment.

“My concern is that when students are using marijuana, they are not as ready to learn, not as ready to engage in positive activities, and contribute to a culture where other students are sucked into [hazardous activities], Stembridge said.

Senior Eugene Kirimov also believes drug and alcohol-related issues are not limited to South.

“There have been cases where [drinking] is a problem, Kirimov said, “but no matter where you go, high school students will be drinking or doing drugs, and I don’t think you can control that.

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