Bexley athletes send mixed message about drug, alcohol use

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Almost all of the Bexley school district’s 260 varsity athletes surveyed say their experiences have been positive and that coaches encourage them to make good decisions about drug and alcohol use.

But almost half report that team members used drugs or alcohol during a season, Athletic Director John Morgan informed the school board June 25.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that team members had used during the season, while 47 percent disagreed.

"We still see a mixed pattern of use. That suggests a lot of ambiguity around the issue," Morgan said of the survey he conducted during the school year. "The students don’t always know what the others are doing."

Morgan initiated the survey, conducted by the firm that manages the senior class exit survey, to assess whether the athletic department was meeting its goals.

The results were "overwhelmingly positive," Morgan said. "We’re doing a pretty good job in students’ eyes.

When asked if they felt good about their athletic participation, 91 percent agreed. The same number said coaches modeled appropriate behavior and provided clear rules and expectations.

"That shows we’re really on the right track. That is one of the most important things coaches can do," Morgan said.

An even higher percentage, 95 percent, said coaches encouraged good decisions about drug and alcohol use. And 85 percent said their own participation helped them to make decisions about drug use.

Morgan called this "a very powerful thing" that amounts to a kind of "reverse peer pressure" not to use.

The reporting on actual drug use matches the results of the survey on drug use and attitudes for the student body as a whole, Superintendent Michael Johnson pointed out.

While the trend is "down dramatically" since the broader survey was started in 1994, it’s still too high, Johnson added.

And the contradictions also show up, with students believing that their peers are using at twice the rate that they report their own use, he said.

To counter the reported rate of drug use, Morgan said he would be working with the new drug and alcohol coordinator to encourage more student leadership on the issue.

"Students can speak to the issue in ways coaches can’t," Morgan said.

He noted that the previous senior class had been vocal in terms of discouraging use and avoiding the party scene, and he wants to make an effort to sustain that message.

Jason Soll, student council president and representative to the board, offered that the main reason that kids use drugs is that they have "too much time on their hands."

He suggested that teams plan more activities together away from practices to constructively use this free time. He would also like to see team captains attend student council meetings and take more of a leadership role in this area.

Board Vice President Andy Sutter directed his comments to another part of the equation.

"One of the biggest challenges in Bexley is enlisting the assistance of parents" in fighting drug and alcohol use, Sutter said.

He said he was "surprised and dismayed" at the resistance of parents to toughening the district policy against student drug and alcohol use, which he believes became less rigorous as a result.

Sutter added that he sees "a little too much acceptance, or resignation" on the part of parents on this issue, as well as attempts to thwart disciplinary efforts when it falls on their kids.

Morgan said that in the coming school year, he plans to survey all athletes, and eventually wants to involve the middle school, as well.

GATE debate

A group of Montrose Elementary parents is asking that the position for the gifted-student teacher be increased to full-time from its current three-quarter time status.

The parents argued that the number of students being taught in the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program and a math acceleration class warrants a full-time position.

Cassingham Elementary has close to the same number in the GATE program and has a full-time teacher, the parents maintained.

Superintendent Johnson responded that the number of Montrose students meeting the GATE criteria, not counting the math students, is less than at Cassingham and justifies the part-time position.

Making the staffing change at Montrose would require a policy change on the GATE program criteria, which the superintendent said he would take under advisement.

In other business:

•Food Services Director Jim Anderson reported that a "grab and go" breakfast program is being designed for the five schools and three cafeterias in the district. Anderson said he was motivated by the number of students who arrive at school without having eaten breakfast. He thinks he can run the program at a minimal cost to the district, using current staff and state reimbursements. A formal proposal will be brought to the board in September, and Superintendent Johnson said the program could be in place by the end of the month or early October.

•Director of Operations Barry Zwick reported that lunch prices at the elementary schools will increase by 10 cents, to $2.85, in the fall, and prices at the middle and high schools will remain the same, at $3.25.

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