Pubdate: Tue, 02 Feb 2010
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2010 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Amy Crawford
Bookmark: (Youth)


The father of a Hempfield Area High School student told  a newly
formed drug task force Monday of the ease with  which his daughter was
able to acquire drugs at school.

"My daughter's telling me how easy it is to go into a  classroom and
crush up a pill," the parent said during  the first meeting of the
district's Drug Awareness and  Prevention Committee, which drew two
dozen parents and  community members.

After the meeting, the man said that his oldest  daughter is in a drug
rehabilitation program after a  year of using OxyContin that she
purchased at school.

"She came to us and said she needed the help," he said.  "She told us
how available it is. It's almost like when  you were a child and you
wanted penny candy."

He urged the district to work harder to fight the drug

"I'm supposed to pay my taxes and send my daughter here  to be safe,"
he said.

The committee, which included several school directors,
Superintendent Terry Foriska and Assistant  Superintendent Andrew
Leopold, was formed after the  district expelled 15 students for
drug-related offenses  this year.

"I think you all will agree that this is one of the  biggest safety
issues," said school Director Randy  Stoner, who chaired the panel.

Stoner said the committee would meet monthly, with the  goal of
increasing awareness of drugs and their  consequences and improving
Hempfield's ability to  prevent drug abuse in schools.

"I've talked to a lot of students," Stoner said.  "Students don't want
to be around drugs. They want to  come to a safe, happy place in the

The drug committee's formation was prompted by the  December expulsion
of seven students who allegedly  brought drugs to school with the
intention of selling  them at the Central Westmoreland Career and
Technology  Center, a vocational school attended by students from
Hempfield and several other districts.

At the January board meeting, Director Sonya Brajdic  said that one of
the students had taken some of the  drugs and had to be hospitalized.
Blood tests showed  that the student had taken Suboxone, which is used
to  help wean addicts off heroin, OxyContin and other  opiates.

Detective Tony Marcocci, the lead narcotics  investigator for
Westmoreland County, said that  teenagers were increasingly using
pills, including  opiates, to get high. These drugs are also more
likely  to be used in school, Marcocci said.

"It's not like marijuana, where kids can leave it at  home," he said.
"When you're addicted, you need to use  it or there's a withdrawal
issue. Sometimes they need  it to get through the school day."

Stoner said that he would recommend at the next board  meeting that
the district hire a school resource  officer, a police officer who
works to deter and  intervene in crimes on school property.

Several area school districts -- including Franklin  Regional,
Penn-Trafford and Monessen -- have school  resource officers. The
officers are usually members of  a local police force, and their
salaries are paid by  both the district and the law enforcement agency.

Stoner said that Hempfield could hire two state police  troopers for
about $100,000. Leopold said that he would  seek a grant to pay for

Meanwhile, the committee planned a public assembly for  parents and
students. That assembly, which was to  feature speakers from law
enforcement, is set for the  evening of Feb. 22 in the high school. 
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