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Meeting addresses teen substance abuse

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Parents, educators, interested community members and even a couple of students met Tuesday night to discuss drug and alcohol abuse among teens in our community.

“It really does take a village to raise a child,” said Suzanne Prouty, who is executive director of TGIF as well as president of the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Directors, at the beginning of the meeting. “I thought with this meeting we’d come together as a village.”

In a packed board room at the TTUSD office, 70 plus people gathered for the second Very Interested Parents meeting to address substance use among local youth that many feel is becoming more of a problem.

“We’re here to do some problem solving tonight and work together,” Prouty said. “It’s not just a school, a school district, but a community as a whole.”

VIP raised interest in the subject after students were discovered to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs at a Tahoe-Truckee High School dance before Christmas break and school dances were temporarily canceled.

Suggestions by parents and educators on how to address the issue ranged from increasing drug and alcohol education at the middle and high school level, increasing parent education and support, closing the TTHS campus so students couldn’t leave at lunch, switching the bell schedules of TTHS with the elementary schools and middle school so high school students started and ended class later to having drug dogs on the high school campus.

Other suggestions included surveying the students for ideas and letting them run a meeting for parents.

TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma said that as a district, educators will look at character development and asset enhancement in the schools as well as increasing the partnership between schools and parents. He also mentioned the partnership between the school district and Sierra College and the opportunity for high school students to take college courses.

“I know we can solve the problem, we just have to hang together to solve this problem and not point blame in one direction,” Gemma said. He said parents need support and need to work together.

TTHS principal Dennis LeBlanc announced that there will be a school dance sponsored by leadership students on March 17 in the high school gym.

“This is not a high school problem,” LeBlanc said. “The high school is part of the community. This is a community problem. Everything we do, from elementary school on, the minute they (the students) go into a house where they are told it’s OK to drink … whatever we’ve told them gets flushed because Mom and Dad said it’s OK”

Placer County Deputy and parent Melinda Maehler was at the meeting to let parents know about the programs that Placer and Nevada County Sheriff’s Offices and the California Highway Patrol are working on at the schools. Programs include a peer court, Ground Zero which supports DARE curriculum, Youth in Action and Death Every 15 Minutes.

“I’m with the high school kids,” Maehler said. “What I’m hearing from the kids is, ‘bring us the programs, let us run the programs and you guide us.'”

TTHS Athletic Director Bob Schaffer said that he is gathering a group of athletes to talk to middle school students about how getting in trouble with drugs and alcohol can hurt their futures. The group will include athletes who have been caught or in trouble, as well as students who are not users, he said.

“We’re trying to take more of a proactive stance,” Schaffer said.

He also said that the TTHS football team and staff have put together a letter stating they want to do random drug testing next year for football players.

One TTHS student representative, who also serves on the TTUSD Discipline Committee, stood up and told parents, “Ask us.” She suggested putting a panel of students together so students can tell parents what they see as the problems for teens and possible solutions.

The next VIP meeting will be run by Prouty and Laurie Martin, Director of Community and Youth Development for TTUSD.


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