A total of 72% of Anguillian High School students feel that illegal drug use at school is a “serious” to “very serious” problem. That is the conclusion of the 2009 Report from the Task Force on School Violence. The Report was published at page 3 of the 27 March 2009 issue of The Anguillian Newspaper.
Anguilla has one secondary school: The Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School. So, we are simultaneously speaking about one secondary school and we are also speaking about the entire secondary school system, from Form 3 and upwards.
The figure of 72% relates to those students who feel that illegal drug use is either a serious problem or a very serious problem. If we knew the percentage of students at the school who feel that drug use at the school is merely a problem that figure would dramatically increase. I would expect the figure to be 100% of the students. A student would have to be blind, naïve, and willing to stand mute of malice to feel otherwise. That is my opinion, anyway.
Note that this figure of 72% is not a calculation relating to illicit drug use in the society in general. It is not a percentage of students who feel that students use illicit drugs at home or on the street. This percentage relates to drug use at school. That is, use of illicit drugs within the surrounding walls of the school itself. Students must daily come across activities or sights that cause them to express such concern. They must regularly witness incidents of drug selling, drug use, and the visible effects of drugs' use among their peers at school, to cause them to express such near-unanimous concern.
The Report recommends a number of simple and positive steps that can be taken to improve the situation at the school. These include:
“2. Dramatically increase adult supervision at the school. It should not be an option for teachers to supervise the students, but an assigned duty. In addition, many parents who returned surveys indicated their willingness to help monitor and supervise at the school. Adult supervision is not just for enforcement; it can also offer many opportunities for positive interactions and good role modeling. This increased adult presence, along with a policy of assigning study halls during free time, will help ensure that there are no unsupervised students wandering the campus during class time.
3. An effective Drug and Alcohol policy needs to be created and enacted. There are many examples of these policies available. The new policy must address prevention, education and treatment. It must also have a provision for drug testing on campus. This process should be coordinated with other departments such as Judicial and Police.”
The cost of implementing these recommendations would be minimal. We do not have to re-invent the wheel all over again. There are many examples of programmes for monitoring illicit drug use in schools and educating students on the effects and implications of drug use available. A perfunctory Google search produced an avalanche of links.
Help can be obtained from the US Department of Educations' Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools programme.
Or, what about the web site of the Student Drug Testing Coalition website?
There are UNESCO programmes we can draw upon.
There is an Australian initiative we can look at.
There are journals on school drug education we can subscribe to, or at least read.
And, these are a small sample of what is available for anyone who is really interested in dealing with our High School drugs-problem in Anguilla.
For those of us interested in transparency, openness and good governance, I regret to report that a copy of the Report is not yet up on the government website. There is only the briefest of mentions on The Anguillian Newspaper website. A pity. The Report would have been more useful than many of the present offerings on view on both sites.