O'Fallon Progress

OTHS is proactively addressing the drug issue

Darcy Benway
Darcy Benway

We continue to hear more and more on the news about the opiate crisis facing our communities. I was recently asked what steps OTHS was taking to address drug use in our schools and what is the severity of the drug issue at OTHS.

Keeping our campuses safe and drug free is a top priority for school officials. I thought it would be timely to share some of the ongoing efforts we are making as we work proactively to educate our students about drugs and as we work to keep OTHS as drug free as possible.

▪  OTHS administrators work collaboratively with local law enforcement to understand the latest trends in drug use. O’Fallon police officers and undercover operatives present annually to the OTHS faculty and staff during the district’s in-service trainings about the latest trends in drug use. OTHS administrators also work collaboratively with local law enforcement to identify vulnerable areas of concern on our campuses, based upon the shared knowledge of issues, patterns of behaviors, and identified trends. We greatly appreciate our partnership with the O’Fallon Police Department and believe this partnership puts OTHS in the most informed position possible to address drug-related behaviors.

▪  OTHS proactively follows up on any tips or information regarding incidents involving drugs/alcohol with our students or on our campuses. Administrators and teachers are in the hallways and common areas, supervising student behaviors and watching for unusual behaviors. The diligence of all OTHS personnel provides a great resource toward our efforts to guide student behaviors.

▪  Administrators, social workers, guidance counselors, and/or teachers may be involved in providing guidance, support, intervention, and education to students identified as being involved with drugs or alcohol. Parent contact is made with parents of students who are believed to be engaged in drug or alcohol related behaviors.

▪  OTHS works with law enforcement and Scott Air Force Base to randomly schedule building walk-throughs with dogs trained to find drugs.

▪  OTHS disciplines students appropriately if they are found to be engaged in drug/alcohol use, possession, consumption and/or sales, and supports the arrest of students if circumstances warrant such action.

▪  OTHS recently surveyed the student body on behaviors that include drug/alcohol use to identify target areas requiring action. OTHS received over 2,000 completed student surveys. The administration and support personnel are in the process of compiling the data to determine if problem areas exist on OTHS campuses. The district will implement initiatives and supports based on the data from the survey.

▪  Earlier during this school year, OTHS surveyed teachers to identify areas of needed professional development related to substance abuse and/or mental illness. OTHS has dedicated its March 6 in-service day to substance abuse and mental health training for faculty and staff. Guest speaker Robert Riley II will address the entire faculty and staff about his journey through heroin addiction. He formed STL Heroin Help, a non-profit aimed at providing resources to heroin addicts. He is one of the founders of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery that provides education in local high schools, legislative advocacy, and other community involvement in an effort to battle the opiate epidemic. OTHS will be sponsoring a community presentation from Mr. Riley during the evening on March 7. OTHS is working with our feeder districts and the O’Fallon Police Department to share the information on the upcoming presentation and to encourage community attendance.

▪  OTHS has an SOS (Staff Offering Support) Team on each campus that identifies students who are at-risk, including supports for students with behavioral issues or involvement with drugs/alcohol.

▪  OTHS social workers meet with students both one-on-one and in group sessions to deal with a variety of issues, including issues related to drugs and alcohol.

▪  Drug/alcohol awareness education is included in the district’s health curriculum, which is a mandated graduation requirement. In addition, curricular efforts to educate our students about the dangers, negative effects, and consequences of alcohol and drug use are included in a variety of courses across the curriculum.

▪  OTHS has a variety of extracurricular clubs (FOR Club, HOPE, Blizzard, FCA, First Priority, Wellness Club, etc.) that support students and promote positive student behaviors.

▪  OTHS enforces a Code of Conduct for athletic and extracurricular participants that addresses drug/alcohol use and imposes higher standards of conduct.

OTHS engages in continuous efforts to address drug and/or alcohol issues with the students we serve. The drug incidents at OTHS during the past 11 years under my tenure as superintendent have involved alcohol, marijuana and/or misuse of prescription medications. We have been fortunate that OTHS has not had any incidents involving cocaine, meth, heroin or other controlled substances.

Student safety is the top priority for school officials at OTHS, and school leaders will continue to be diligent in our efforts to prevent and address any drug or alcohol issues on our campuses. We recognize that the drug crisis is such that schools, parents, and the community must work together if we hope to make a difference in the lives of young people. Again, OTHS will be sponsoring a community presentation during the evening on March 7. More information about the presentation will be forthcoming. We encourage all to attend.