Pubdate: Sun, 21 Dec 2003
Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR)
Copyright: 2003 Lee Enterprises
Author: Jennifer Moody


Expulsions, Depression, Underage Drinking And Drug Use: How Administrators 
Plan To Turn The Tide

LEBANON - Seventeen students have been expelled so far this year from 
Lebanon High School, which administrators say underscores the need for 
change in the way the school is organized.

School officials said 15 of the 17 expulsions involved drug use, and the 
other two involved bringing knives onto campus.

All of the drug offenses were committed during the school day, involving 
either a student under the influence or drugs found in a student's 
possession. All but one were committed by a freshman or a sophomore. Four 
pending expulsion hearings also involved drugs.

Superintendent Jim Robinson brought the statistics up Monday at a School 
Board work session on how the high school is being restructured.

The offenses are alarming, he said, particularly when other statistics are 
taken into account. According to a 1998 Search Institute survey of Lebanon 
students, substantiated by the 1999 Oregon Student Drug Survey, only one in 
four students reported having a positive adult role model.

The survey also showed one in five students reported frequent bouts of 
depression, one in four reported using alcohol three or more times in the 
last month, and almost 30 percent reported having had a fight or carrying 
or using a weapon at least three times in the past year.

Also, Lebanon's dropout rate has hovered between 6 and 10 percent for the 
past four years.

Robinson said he believes students use drugs partly to escape from these 
situations. It all adds up, he said, to support for the district's work to 
rearrange the way it delivers a high school education.

Lebanon High currently has 1,285 students who go through each day, more or 
less, as a whole. The plan is to reorganize into "smaller learning 
communities," which should be largely complete by the start of the next 
school year.

Part of the idea is that being in smaller groups will help students develop 
closer relationships, both with each other and with their teachers. In 
addition, each community will reflect a particular academic theme, to help 
students pick a field of study and see how it connects, both with the rest 
of their high school experience and with life after school.

School officials hope the result will be students who feel more in touch 
with their school and see a clearer purpose in the material they're 
learning there, no matter what their post-school plans are.

"These incidents are a product of the system, and the system must be 
reinvented," said Steve Kelley, director of curriculum.

Right now, Robinson said, it's easy for individuals to "just get in the 
large herd and move through it." Teachers, he said, don't have the time to 
know students well or give them guidance.

"We dismiss for lunch, (students) go downtown and don't go back," he said.

Lebanon has a school resource officer through the police department who 
helps deal with some of the immediate situations, Robinson said. However, 
he said, the recent expulsions don't come from a crackdown.

"It just seems to be a more brazen attempt on the part of the students to 
take risks where we haven't seen them doing so before," he said.

A Growing Problem

Drugs are an acknowledged problem throughout mid-valley schools, officials say.

At least half of the expulsion hearings at either of Albany's two high 
schools each year are related to substance abuse, said Wayne Goates, 
director of student services for the district.

The number of expulsions at West Albany High School has risen each year for 
the past four years as the school has been working harder to get rid of 
drugs, Goates said. Last year, 19 students were expelled, 10 of them for 
drug or alcohol use.

At South, 13 students were expelled, six for substance use.

Drug and alcohol counseling is required before a student expelled for using 
those substances can return.

This year so far, West hasn't had any expulsions, while South has had seven 
- four for alcohol, one for drugs and two for assault.

Schools handle expulsions differently depending on their own board 
policies. Neither Sweet Home nor Lebanon require students expelled for drug 
use to get counseling, although it's strongly encouraged.

So far this year, Sweet Home has had two expulsions, with a third pending. 
The two had to do with bringing knives on campus and the third was