Pubdate: Sun, 21 Dec 2003 Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR) Copyright: 2003 Lee Enterprises Contact: http://www.mvonline.com/support/contact/DHedletters.php Website: http://www.democratherald.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/7 Author: Jennifer Moody HIGH STAKES AT LEBANON HIGH 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 alcohol-related.