Pubdate: Sun, 02 Jul 2006
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2006 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Shawn Regan, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The number of teenagers who are drivin  drunk or with friends who are
drunk is rising, according to  survey of high-schoolers that is given
each year

Other behaviors that have increased include physical fighting,
damaging or destroying someone else's property and sniffing common
household aerosol products to get high.

Use of hard drugs by Haverhill high-schoolers increased slightly,
continuing a trend that began three years ago.

One in four teenagers said they had driven with a drunken driver in
the month prior to when they completed the survey, and one in 10 said
they had driven drunk themselves within 30 days of taking the survey.

The annual voluntary survey was given in May and June 2005 to 1,382
students in grades seven, nine, 10, 11 and 12. It was given to them in
their homerooms. The information was processed over the last year and
released last week.

Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan, School Committee members and parents
said they were shocked by the results.

"Maybe it's because I'm new, but I hadn't realized drugs and fighting
were such a problem here," said Buchanan, who has been Haverhill
superintendent since January. "Hopefully the report is going to be a
wake-up call for everyone.

"Haverhill is a lot better than many other urban cities, but there are
some troubling trends in the report," he said. "Hard drug use seems to
be going up every year, so that's a big concern."

Telling the Truth?

In past years, some students have suggested many of their peers lie or
exaggerate to sabotage the survey. But Haverhill High sophomore Sean
Hayden said he filled out the survey truthfully.

"It's anonymous, so why bother lying?" he said. "There's always going
to be some kids who make stuff up, but I think most kids take it seriously."

The superintendent said one of his biggest concerns is that the School
Committee just eliminated the position that was in charge of
developing and overseeing health-education programs at the high school.

"I don't have anyone to put in charge of responding to the report," he
said. "But I'm going to have to find someone quickly."

Dr. Patricia Cronin, who oversaw the study for Community Action of
Haverhill, will present the results at the next School Committee
meeting July 13.

The survey asked questions about alcohol, drug and tobacco use, as
well as how often students engage in dangerous and violent activities
such as fighting and vandalism.

Fifty-eight percent of high school students said they have consumed
alcohol to the point of being intoxicated at least once in their
lifetime, up from 56 percent in the previous year's survey, taken in
2004. Thirty-five percent of the students said they had been drunk at
least once in the month prior to taking the survey.

The largest one-year jump in behaviors involved fighting and
intentionally damaging or destroying someone else's property.
Thirty-four percent of high-schoolers said they had been in one or
more fights in the past year, up from 27 percent in 2004. Three in 10
students said they had intentionally damaged or destroyed someone
else's property in the past year, up from two in 10 students in 2004.
Thirty-six percent of high-schoolers said they had been in trouble
with school officials for bad grades or misbehaving at least once in
the past year, up from 27 percent in 2004.

Parent Maria Paquette said her 16-year-old daughter was in at least
two fights last year -- both happening after school on or near the
high school, she said.

"She may have had more fights," Paquette said. "By the end of the
year, I tried to make sure someone was there to pick her up after
school because I didn't want her to get in any more trouble."

Paquette said she doesn't think principals and teachers at the high
school do enough to identify and punish bullies and that her daughter
"just got sick of being picked on."

"If the teachers don't handle it, then you have to stick up for
yourself," she said.

Hayden, the Haverhill High sophomore, said he only saw two or three
fights inside the high school last year.

"I think there were more fights the previous year," he

Jump in Drug Use, Smoking

For the second year in a row, the number of teenagers who said they
have used hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, LSD or Ecstasy
increased. The largest jump in the hard-drug category was for sniffing
common household aerosol products to get high. Twenty-one percent of
high-schoolers reported using inhalants last year, up from 17 percent
in 2004 and 13 percent in 2003.

"The increase in inhalant use is a big red flag," Cronin

Tobacco use also is up. The percentage of high school students who
reported smoking a cigarette rose from 22 percent two years ago to 25
percent last year. Lifetime cigarette use among high-schoolers dropped
from 45 percent two years ago to 43 percent last year.

Cronin said students were also asked about which drugs and substances
they perceived to be the least dangerous, and acceptable. Cigarettes
and alcohol topped the list, she said.

"That's not a surprise because those are the substances they see
adults using," she said.

Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance among Haverhill
teenagers, according to the survey, but local levels remain at or
below statewide and national levels, Cronin said. The majority of
Haverhill teenagers that drink alcohol, however, do so to get drunk,
she said.

One in two Haverhill High students reported using some illegal drug at
some point in their lives.

The survey showed marijuana use is on the decline at the high school.
One in four high-schoolers reported smoking marijuana recently, the
same as the state average but 5 percent higher than the national average.

Two other behaviors that are increasing among Haverhill teenagers are
wearing a seat belt and gambling, Cronin said.

Drunken Driving, Violence Are Big Concerns

School Committee member Kerry Fitzgerald said she was most alarmed
about the growing number of students who are getting into cars driven
by teenagers who have been drinking alcohol.

"As a parent of teenagers, that scares me more than anything," she
said. "And I think it's an area that we can address with education and
prevention programs. But we're not spending money on prevention like
we used to, and I think we are seeing the results (in the survey)."

Fitzgerald noted that the district's money problems caused the School
Committee to eliminate the supervisor of fine arts position that
oversaw a number of disciplines including health and wellness. Losing
that position cost the district a $120,000, two-year grant that could
have been used for health-education programs, she said.

School Committee member Scott Wood Jr. said he is troubled by reports
of increased fighting at the high school

"From what I've been told, there were more fights at the high school
this past year than ever before," he said. "It's a major problem. The
first thing we need to find out is why it is happening."

Wood is chairman of the School Committee's substance-abuse task force,
which hasn't met in several months. In light of the survey results, he
said, he intends to hold a meeting within the next few weeks to
continue researching what are the best alcohol- and drug-prevention
programs used by other school districts.

Of Haverhill High's 2,118 students, 979 completed the survey -- a
little less than half of the student population. A total of 403
seventh-graders completed it.



Percentage of Haverhill High School students who reported using
illegal drugs in last 30 days*

Marijuana: 25

Cocaine: 11

Ecstasy: 8

LSD: 7

Mescaline: 7

Amphetamines: 7

Barbiturates: 6

Heroin: 5

*Survey was given in May and June 2005


A total 979 Haverhill high school students completed the voluntary
survey in May and June 2005. Among the results:

20 percent of high school students, or about one in five, reported
they have used a hard drug such as cocaine, heroin, LSD or ecstasy at
least once in their lives -- up from 19 percent in 2004, 17 percent in
2003 and 15 percent in 2002.

15 percent said they had used a hard drug in the previous 30 days --
up from 13 percent in 2004 and 9 percent in 2003.

Number of students who said they rode in an automobile within the past
month with a fellow student who had been drinking alcohol increased
from 24 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2005. One in 10 students said
they drove drunk themselves in the past month, and 13 percent said
they have driven drunk at least once on their lifetime.

The largest jump in drug use among high school students over the
previous year was in the category of inhalants -- common household
aerosol products sniffed to get high. Twenty-one percent of
high-schoolers said they used an inhalant in their lifetime, up from
17 percent in 2004 and 13 percent in 2003. Fifteen percent said they
had used an inhalant in the last month, up from 12 percent in 2004 and
7 percent in 2003.

Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance by Haverhill
teenagers, just as it is in Massachusetts and the country. Thirty-four
percent of high-schoolers reported they drank alcohol at least once in
the previous 30 days, with one in five reporting they drank more than
five alcoholic drinks at once.

One in four high school students reported smoking marijuana recently,
and 43 percent reported trying it at least once, the same as the state
average but 5 percent higher than the national average. Both figures
are down slightly compared to last year.

Fighting and intentional property damage are way up. Thirty-four
percent of students reported being in a fight in the past year, and 30
percent reported damaging or destroying someone else's property in the
past year. Those figures were 27 and 21 on the 2004 survey.

Thirty-eight percent of high-schoolers said they always wear their
seat belt, up from 36 percent in 2004.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake