Pubdate: Sat, 01 Nov 2003
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Harvey Davey


Re: Marijuana tops tobacco among teens, Oct. 29.

I had been teaching 10 years when these changes started. During the 1960s, 
high achievers' marks seldom dropped significantly without fairly obvious 
reasons. Sometimes it was as an accident or death in the family, sometimes 
a breakup.

But during the 1970s, far more high achievers' started marks dropping and 
teachers had no idea why. More average kids' marks dropped faster, too, 
also for no apparent reason.

Eventually we learned that recreational drugs, not available when we were 
in school in the 1950s, were the new ingredients in our classrooms.

The government of David Peterson chose to adopt a policy of education and 
prevention to address the problem. It initiated programs to train teachers 
to recognize and work with students with drug problems. In Ottawa, each 
high school had at least one substance abuse resource teacher (SART). 
Youths with problems got help and the problems became more manageable. 
There was less drug use according to the statistics.

Then came budget cuts. SARTs and access to treatment programs were among 
the first cuts. They were replaced gradually with zero tolerance, 
suspensions and prison threats. More youths using pot than tobacco 
demonstrates the success of the replacements.

There is ample factual proof that slogans and tougher penalties such as 
those used in the United States do not work. There is ample factual proof 
that education and prevention strategies that train teachers and have 
treatment backup work. This retired teacher is no rocket scientist but he 
knows which strategy makes sense.

Harvey Davey,

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