For most everyone on The Gregory School campus, Fridays are packed. Students are often locked in to rotations like Project: Inquiry or mandatory Math Lab sessions. They finish college applications or prepare for standardized tests in the college counseling center.
They work on important Fab Lab projects. They collaborate on class projects or present them. Some students serve as Writing Center tutors locked into tutoring sessions. Seniors must complete their off-campus internships, and Friday rotations remain the only option for many of them to do so.
Enter The Gregory School’s mandatory drug and alcohol enforcement presentation. On Friday, November 20, all TGS high school students were locked into rotations in order to be educated about the dangers of drug and alcohol usage.
“Parents really wanted the school to inform their children on the topic,” Director of Admission and Student Services Mary Babbitt said. So in the second and third rotations of the day, students had to cancel class appointments, project preparation time, and Inquiry meetings to file into the theater to listen to a woman from a non-profit drug awareness organization talk about the dangers of drug use.
Tori Ferrari, the woman who led the presentation, discussed drug addicts she had worked with and how they completely destroyed their life after getting addicted to drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine.
They had no money left after their addiction, lost their jobs, and often even lost their lives.
She warned students about the threats drugs presented, and even had a young lady working in her organization who struggled with addiction tell TGS students about the harm it caused her and her family.
Now, here’s the problem with the presentation. Every example of drug addicts they used became engaged in substance abuse as middle schoolers, or as freshmen in high school.
As sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the talk was irrelevant to us. Furthermore, everything Ferrari discussed in her presentation about the danger of substance overuse and abuse was already familiar to the vast majority of high school students here at TGS.
“I already knew the harm drugs can pose for people, without someone coming onto campus and telling me about it,” senior Janessa Leon-Guerrero said. “I had a big Psych and Lit presentation right after the talk, and it would have been a much more effective use of my time to practice for that.”
Ferrari spent a large chunk of time discussing what parents could do to ensure their children don’t engage in substance abuse. What was the use of telling students that?
Shouldn’t parents have had to be the ones to hear about what they were supposed to do in order to ensure their children don’t become drug addicts?
Some advice was just too radical. She insisted that parents should have the complete right to read the text messages of their children at any given time, and have the passwords to all their social media accounts, eviscerating the principle of trust—something families should certainly take into account.
I found it extremely difficult to empathize with Ferrari’s presentation when she compared drug addiction to a soap opera addiction she had as a college student.
Comparing the use of dangerous drugs to binge-watching TV shows was certainly not successful in conveying to high school students the seriousness and lethality of substance abuse.
At the high school level, it is common knowledge that drugs have an adverse effect on people’s bodies, but students often don’t know how to break an addiction or help others do so.
Rather than simply telling students not to use drugs, discussing more practical techniques would be a much more effective strategy.
It was simply a waste of time for students to watch poorly edited videos showing brief clips of drug addicts at their worst on a day when time was so limited and there was so much else to be done.
I know my Inquiry group was unable to meet as a result of this talk. As it is, we all have busy schedules and are unable to find time to work as a group, so Friday rotations make up the majority of the time my group can meet and progress on our project.
But as a result of the unnecessary, drawn-out drug presentation that students were forced to sit through, we were unable to get any of real work done.
A friend of mine summed up the experience of the presentation, remarking, “Presentations like this really make me want to have a drink.”
Over the years, The Gregory School has attempted to teach students about the dangers of addiction through a series of presentations.
Students have heard musicians come in and sing about drugs. They have seen people visit straight out of rehab to discuss drugs.
Unfortunately, this year’s drug and alcohol presentation will also go down in history as another one of those useless sessions during which students learned nothing new or useful.
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