Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jun 2007
Source: Ambler Gazette, The (PA)
Copyright: 2007 Montgomery Newspapers
Author: Jillian Bauer
Bookmark: (Youth)


After sitting on the numbers for an entire year, the Upper Dublin
School District released some disturbing results of a drug and alcohol
survey administered in November 2005 to nearly 1,600 Upper Dublin
students in grades six, seven, eight, 10 and 12 at a PTO meeting May
17 at the Upper Dublin Township Building.

The results showed that more Upper Dublin seniors use alcohol,
marijuana and illicit drugs with more frequency than both the national
and statewide averages. More students are now using, and with more
frequency, than Upper Dublin students surveyed in 1999.

"I'm not sure if there's any significance as to why the results were
presented in May [2007]," said Upper Dublin Superintendent Dr. Michael

Both school district counselor Joanne DeGirolamo and K-12 health and
physical education coordinator Kim Schuler were in charge of
conducting the survey, reviewing the results and creating a
presentation based on what they found. According to Pladus, DeGirolamo
said there was a delay in getting the results back from the
Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Pladus said the school district did not receive the results until
either May or June 2006, and they had to be discussed by the Upper
Dublin Safety Council before being presented, as they had been in the
past. The decision was then made to present them at the end of the
2006-07 school year because the safety council did not meet until that
school year, he said. The Pennsylvania Youth Survey, conducted by the
Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, was distributed to
more than 232 schools in Pennsylvania when Upper Dublin participated
in 2005.

According to the school district, 26 of the 1,593 surveys were
eliminated for reporting "exaggerated drug use patterns, fictitious
drug use and inconsistent patterns of drug use," in order to ensure
the validity of the results. Very few students opted out of the
survey, as it was anonymous, Schuler said.

Of the Upper Dublin seniors surveyed about their lifetime use, 93
percent said they had used alcohol, 55 percent had used marijuana and
25 percent had used illicit drugs, including inhalants, cocaine,
crack, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, ecstasy and steroids, according
to the results as presented by the school district.

In Pennsylvania, 85 percent of seniors surveyed had used alcohol, 44.8
percent had used marijuana and 20.8 percent had used illicit drugs,
according to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and

Across the country in 2005, 75 percent of seniors had at least once
used alcohol, and 45 percent had used marijuana, but the percent of
students who have used illicit drugs was unavailable, according to the
Monitoring the Future study.

According to Schuler, another big area of concern was the number of
students who had reported driving under the influence. The survey
showed 30 percent of Upper Dublin seniors reported having driven after
drinking alcohol and 32 percent had driven after using marijuana.

On an independent, student-created Web site titled, which
features an altered school district emblem with the words "Upper
Druglin School District," students are offered a link for members to
advertise for and give recaps on local parties.

One party, titled the "official Launch party," was
recapped with pictures of unidentifiable people, one visibly wearing
an Upper Dublin High School hoodie, drinking beer. One person bragged
about drinking and driving.

"For those lucky enough to get invited, that sure was a lot of
alcohol," wrote the anonymous writer. "I don't even remember driving

For many, the survey results were no surprise, simply the reflection
of an affluent area.

"I think when you have a community where kids are smart, savvy, with
access to money and they have time on their hands, I think that can
always result in drug or alcohol use," said Upper Dublin High School
Principal Charles Rittenhouse. "Certainly, I'm aware of the problem
and I'm very concerned," he added.

According to Upper Dublin police Chief Terry Thompson, so far in 2007,
46 people have been cited for underage drinking in Upper Dublin, the
majority at parties, with 14 of those citations stemming from one
party last week. Also, some citations have resulted from car stops.

But Thompson said he didn't think Upper Dublin was alone in its
incidence of underage alcohol consumption.

"In Wissahickon, Central Bucks, Hatboro-Horsham, I would expect all to
be the same in the area," he said, referring to underage drinking.

Although Wissahickon High School has not administered a formal drug
and alcohol survey, high school Principal Bill Hayes said he recently
sent out a letter to parents to raise awareness of the student drug
and alcohol use that students, parents and police have made him aware

"It's a problem all over the place," Hayes said of underage

As far as drugs are concerned, Thompson said he recalled five or six
fatal drug overdoses in the township over the last few years, mostly
by young people who had already graduated from the high school, though
one was a high school student who overdosed last year.

While not discounting the seriousness of drug use, Thompson, who has
been with the department for more than 30 years, said, "I saw worse
drug use in Upper Dublin 10 to 15 years ago," when LSD, TCP and
similar drugs were more available.

But now, according to Schuler, the district is concerned about
prescription drug use, which according to local, state and national
averages, is high for older teens.

According to Upper Dublin's survey results on seniors, 15 percent had
used amphetamines, 13 percent had used sedatives, 15 percent had used
tranquilizers and 18 percent had used other narcotics.

Schuler described the prescription drug use of Upper Dublin students
as "disturbing," and said that they were getting the drugs from their
parents and even grandparents.

"We want to keep an eye on the whole prescription drug thing because
we know that's a problem with the kids," Schuler said.

Problem areas that may be causing the drug use, as identified on the
survey, included things such as parents who provide alcohol, parents
who don't see a problem with drinking, and a frequency in mobilizing
from house to house or school to school, Schuler said.

"Even though we gave the survey it's not [just] the school's problem,"
said Schuler, noting that community and family also play an equal
role. "We're just one piece to the puzzle." From here on the
district's focus is on the future, according to Pladus.

"Our hope is to use the momentum of the new school year to do more
work with parents, inform them of the results of the survey and to
reinforce the concern about underage drinking and student
experimentation with illegal and controlled substances," Pladus said.

School board member Art Levinowitz was contacted and said he was not
at the PTO meeting where the results were presented and he did not
comment on the results or the time gap between when the survey was
administered and when the results were released. Calls to school board
President Michael Paston and school board member Dave Robinson were
not returned by press time. None of the other six board members were


Staff writer Linda Finarelli contributed to this article.
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