yet more ignorant parents who think the schools are out of line for stepping in where the parents fail…

4 Responses to “yet more ignorant parents who think the schools are out of line for stepping in where the parents fail…”

  1. January 11, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    By Alan Burke and Ethan Forman

    SWAMPSCOTT — School officials courted controversy last night when they gathered parents to sign onto their anti-drug and -alcohol policy. While barring the media from what was already a controversial meeting, they earned resentment from some when they refused to let parents speak.

    The extraordinary pressure mounted to get parents there — the school threatened to bar the children of absent parents from sports and clubs — had already created national headlines. Principal Layne Millington and Superintendent Lynne Celli justified the tactic by citing an alarming level of drug and alcohol use in the school.

    Celli made it clear prior to the meeting that parents would not be invited to speak. She also explained the decision to bar the media, saying, “This is for parents.”

    Because he is a parent of a Swampscott High School freshman, Salem News reporter Ethan Forman could not be barred. However, at one point, a plainclothes detective tried to kick him out, saying it was a private meeting.

    A video created by school officials and the Swampscott Drug, Alcohol and Youth Risk Behavior Task Force was shown, including scenes of students holding up handwritten signs like: “52 percent of us have reported smoking marijuana.” Stories of young people lost to substance abuse were also included.

    “We have seen an increase in drug and alcohol use at a younger age than we are used to,” Swampscott Detective Rose Cheever said in the video.

    The video was shown at both meetings. For space reasons — the parking lot filled to overflowing — ninth- and 10th-grade parents met first, followed by 11th and 12.

    At the first meeting, Millington explained that he’d taken action after police reports of student substance abuse landed on his desk. Now the new chemical health policy, previously applied only to athletes, will affect all students “365 days of the year,” on and off school grounds.

    The use of drugs or alcohol will cost a student the right to engage in extracurricular activities for a year and will require participation in a drug or alcohol program.

    The school has no intention of going out into the community to enforce the policy, the principal said, but will deal with students “whose behaviors are brought to our attention,” either from the police or, occasionally, online via Facebook.

    Millington said this was not an attempt to tell parents how to raise their kids and discussed techniques parents could use to deter youthful misbehavior.

    A sampling of opinion after the meeting found some parents grateful that the school is alert to the dangers of substance abuse at the high school.

    “It’s good to know that they will watch out for the students,” Christina Vu said. “That they will be careful with them.”

    But there was also disappointment at the process.

    No talking

    One parent, Ronald Brooks, was told to sit and remain silent or face arrest, when he complained that the policy wasn’t widely circulated prior to meeting. “Could you listen to us?” he asked.

    “The police came over,” said his wife, Judith, “and told him to sit down or they’d have him arrested for disorderly conduct.”

    Having made their presentation, she added, officials told the parents in effect “to shut up and go home.”

    Despite Millington’s assurances, Judith Brooks sees the schools trying to usurp the job of parents. Obtaining a copy of the policy last Friday, she said, “It took our breath away.”

    Before the first meeting, the superintendent promised that nothing newsworthy would be said and pointed to her willingness to answer press questions.

    “We were out front on the story last week,” Celli said.

    Added School Committee member Glenn Paster, “We’re looking to keep the event as calm as possible.”

    Celli also worried that there wouldn’t be space enough for the media. The auditorium was not filled, however.

    Several public officials attended, including state Sen. Tom McGee, D-Lynn; state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead; and District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who was scheduled to speak at the second meeting.

    “It was OK,” mom Julia Gorman said as she left the school, but she added that she wasn’t “stunned” by anything she heard. “I know what teenagers do. The school is foolish to think parents don’t know what’s going on.”

    She added that she resented “a little” being forced to attend.

    “It was useless,” said parent Gina Cordy, who is nonetheless encouraged that school officials are aware of the problem and trying to address it. “But I thought there should have been some back and forth.”

    Ellen Christy of Nahant shook her head, noting the schools used “a little brute force” to get parents there. But she added, “I didn’t resent it. (School officials) felt strongly about it.”

    On the other hand, she acknowledged deep concerns about the level of drug and alcohol use in Swampscott schools. At one point, parents were told of multiple drug deaths among former Swampscott students over a period of years.

    “Really, I’m a little afraid of what’s going on here,” Christy said. She is considering taking her daughter out of the Swampscott schools.

    For her part, Brooks is hoping to organize parents to force school officials to revisit the policy. “We’ve been organizing all weekend … to see who has the courage to stand up.”

  2. January 12, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Hey Folks

    After doing some investigative reporting, I’m learning that the powers that be have no interest in discussing this in any more detail. Something told me there’s more to the story…

    And I was right…AGAIN!

    This week on the show we will be hearing from the Swampscott community about this case and some of the things that we didn’t read about.

    We’ll be joined by clinical psychologist Dr. Judith Bevis who also happens to be a sports mom and a soccer coach.

    She will bring some very unique perspective to the show and I’m excited about hosting another episode of “Judge Tony”

    Tune in on Sunday at 9 am eastern to learn more and let us know what you think.


    Coach Tony

  3. January 16, 2011 at 11:47 AM


    I have to say I missed the first 20 minutes of the show. However, I am not sure where Dr. Bevis stands. Your last point about everyone working together was great, however, most would come up with a policy not much different than they currently have. This is an ethical question, period. Until parents, the school, and the athletes start looking at it from that standpoint and take to heart the fact that no matter what the consequence, if you sign it, you are expected to abide by it, nothing will change. They ALL must work together as a group, and they all will eventually come to the conclusion that some type of tougher consequence will need to be applied at some point, maybe at all points, throughout the process.

    No policy, as you stated, will ever be perfect, and most policies out there today, that I am aware of, do allow for some flexibility. Personally, I do not know of a case anywhere where a student was called to drive a friend home because they were drunk and the friend got suspended. I do not believe this would happen and to use this as a reason why no tolerance, whether I agreed with no tolerance or not, is simply a false premise and manipulative in and of itself. To grasp at situations that might occur (drinking in your own home at a holiday, toasting at your sister’s wedding, etc.), and are unlikely to cause consequence, using them as justification for changing something the school wants to implement because they see a problem, is, well, problematic.

    And yes, I am aware of the brain research on how teen brains develop and that it is not possible to treat them as adults since they cannot reason like adults – that is why they do need guidance. I am also aware of, through direct experience with 300 – 400 students and student athletes a year (educator) for 31 years, that it is the nature of a teen to manipulate a situation if they are allowed to. It is part of who they are (and the developmental stage that they are at) to push the line, to experiement, to demonstrate their independance and act out in a way that they feel more adult. That is why policies must be clear cut, consistently applied, and have the underlying mission to help make a difference and cause positive change – even if, sometimes, they seem tough.

    I wished I had heard the whole show. At the end Dr. Bevis said she was more concerned about them making it a blanket policy for ALL students not just athletes. I agree, this is unenforceable and I would be concerned about this too. It is not the school’s job to parent kids, outside of the school confines. That is the parent’s job. If a regular student comes to school, or a school event, under the influence (or drinks at the school) that is one thing. To consequence a student when they were at a party Friday night drinking is another – Not the school’s job, nor should it be.

    However, as an athlete, your behavior affects not only you but others, you are a representative of the school as an athlete, you are choosing to play sports – it is a privilege not a right. This choice means you abide by the rules that are set by the school and the program or don’t participate – you don’t like it, tough!!! That is called a life lesson. Not sure I see it the same for the student body as a whole, as much as I would like to. The school IS overstepping its bounds when it includes ALL students in a policy like this.

    And one last thing. After working in school systems my whole career, being involved as a coach and athlete “in the system,” I can tell you this. If the school district is willing to take such a risk in this community, it is most likely that there is a real problem that the parents of the community are not even aware of or are turning a blind eye to. It is not common for school districts to put themselves at risk like this, or be this proactive, unless they have really good reason to. The fallout if they are wrong is just to great.

    Just my thoughts.



  4. 4 Judith Bevis, Ph.D.
    January 19, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Hi, Tony,

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak about some of these important issues facing our kids. It was a pleasure to be on your show. I am glad you are leading the way in continuing an honest discussion of the issues around drug, alcohol, and tobacco facing our children and teens.

    We would like to invite your listeners to e-mail us with their ideas about the policy and ways to rethink what policies, practice, and inteventions need to be in place to keep our kids safe and healthy throughout their adolescent years. Our e-mail address is repealandrethink@yahoo.com.

    Here are also some interesting links:

    http://www.teen-safe.org – This site put together by The Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital in Boston provides an interesting web-based presentation about the neuroscientifically based issues that must inform our policies and interventions with teens about addicive substances.

    http://www.miaa.net – This is the official site of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, an organization of 377 high schools, who sponsor athletic activities in 33 sports. The site is a references for current policies and issues important to high school athletes. I would especially like to direct your attention to the article on “The Case for High School Activities.”

    The American Psychological Assocition Task Force on Zero Tolerance Policies has prepared a well reasoned research based discussion that cautions against the adoption of zero tolerance policies based on their ineffectiveness and negative consequences.

    Finally, the National Institute for Drug Abuse has prepared an evidence pabsed prevention program outlined in the following publication.http://www.nida.nih.gov/pdf/prevention/InBrief.pdf

    The newly developed Swampscott Chemical Health Policies can be found at

    We hope this will keep the discussion going and let us rethink, as a society, how we address substance use and abuse so that we can develop scientifically based, legally informed, effective policies and interventions that work in a respecful fashion, fairly and without hypocrisy, on these issues that are important to us all.


    Judith A. Bevis, Ph.D.
    Swampscott, MA 01907

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: