Survey shines light on BHS drug, alcohol usage
A drug and alcohol survey given to Baldwin High School students made news June 13 on a Kansas City news station and the school board meeting.
On that Monday afternoon, WDAF Channel 4 reporter Tom Gauer came to Baldwin to interview BHS trainer Gary Stevanus and BHS teacher and coach Kit Harris about the drug testing issue and the student survey. Students were also interviewed.
"We didn't have a lot of specific answers for them, because we're really early in it and we don't know what's going to happen either," Stevanus said. "They didn't try to put a spin on it either way. They just had some general questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it. I thought it was positive and good publicity."
The news station had been following the stories on the Baldwin City Signal's Web site. Stevanus said he didn't have much time to prepare for the interview.
"They called and asked me few questions on the phone and said we will be there in about 45 minutes," Stevanus said. "So I had no idea they were coming until Monday morning."
The segment was only 1:20 long and ran on the 6 p.m. news show. BHS graduate Luke Halford and BHS junior Jeremy Wright were also interviewed for the segment.
The 275 students that took the survey were for drug testing at BHS. Fifty percent of the students favored drug testing, while 22 percent were unsure.
The news station ran the segment before the school board meeting Monday. Gauer wanted to know what happened at the meeting, when Harris presented the survey to the board, but the meeting lasted too long for the 10 p.m. news show.
Harris got his chance to present the information at around 10:15 p.m. Monday. Harris showed the questions and results on a slide show and gave handouts to the board members.
"I tried to present the data and let the statistics speak for themselves and let the board shape their opinions on what would be the best thing to do," Harris said.
The survey was taken by BHS juniors, sophomores and freshman. One statistic that caught Harris' attention was that 55 of the students have used illicit drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine.
Many students have seen other students use drugs, tobacco and alcohol on school grounds. Fifty-five students have witnessed a student drinking alcohol on school grounds.
Harris thought the survey helps the board members understand how the students feel, instead of just guessing.
"Before the survey, we based opinions on speculation and hearsay," Harris said. "The data gives us some actual facts as to what people think and how many people think what."
After the information was presented, the board to discuss the results and the drug testing proposal.
School Board President Ed Schulte said the statistics definitely bring the problem to people's attention.
"I think it's a thing that raises everybody's antennae, and it's obviously raised the kids' awareness," Schulte said.
Board Member Lonnie Broers said the board has the responsibility to do what's right for the students.
"It may be unpopular with part of our community, but that doesn't mean it is wrong," Broers said. "We've got to remember our job as a board is to do what's right for our children."
Another aspect that board members thought was important was if the program helps any students at all, then it proves its worth to the community.
"If it's one kid we help, then it's worth it," Board Member Scott Lauridsen said.
Harris also agreed helping one student makes the program worth while.
"We could identify a kid and it could be a life-changing moment for them and their family," Harris said. "I can only see it being a positive thing."
Harris said that participating in extracurricular activities can help students stay drug free. At BHS, 69 percent of the students surveyed said they participate in extracurricular activities.
The board decided to take its time and make sure it hears plenty of input and answers all question before voting on the policy. Harris was not opposed to taking it slow.
"To take our time and do it right is a wise approach," Harris said. "But I do want to take aggressive action to address what I think is a strong concern with drug use."
"It's something we need to be proactive in, rather than reactive," Broers said.
The complete survey with answers can be found in the news section on the Signal's Web site.