Red Ribbon Week and Drug Prevention is "Failing"

Red Ribbon week at Eureka High School could use some major work...

In fifth period Geoscience, we received a pleasant surprise. Free candy? Yes please! Here's the catch. With every piece of candy handed out, the teacher was instructed to recite a cheesy catchphrase to encourage students not to do drugs. For instance, with a jolly rancher, they'd hand it to you and say "Be jolly! Say no to drugs!" and with a small lollipop, they were told to tell us "Don't be a sucker! Stay away from drugs!"

Needless to say, this caused massive amusement to the students, particularly the less-than-stellar students who laughed at the fact the school honestly thought they could curb illegal drug usage by giving out free candy.

Drugs are a problem at Eureka High School. I don't have a single class in which I can say that every student in the classroom is completely clean. Marijuana, in particular, seems to be quite rampant at our school. The availability of drugs isn't the only problem. It's the apathy of the teenagers' parents, who either aren't parenting correctly or simply don't care.

It's not unusual to sit in the library and hear conversations about smoking pot. As I sit here typing, I'm listening to a group of guys talk about how they like to blow smoke from pot in their pets' faces and watch their helpless animals react to the drugs.

Red Ribbon Week, in my mind, is a failure. Most students have no idea the impact drugs have on their bodies. Those that DO know the impact, simply don't care.

If you want to gain a solid distaste of humanity, walk through the halls of a high school...it's natural selection at its finest. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't utterly ashamed of my generation.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paul Stanley October 25, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I commend the author's bravery for speaking to the weakness of Red Ribbon Week. I am a teacher at Eureka High School and I think that Miss Di Valerio points out what educators already know, reducing teen drug use requires a more systematic and in-depth strategy than simply handing out candy and reciting canned slogans. However, I find the revulsion the author feels towards her classmates at EHS to be unfortunate. I take offense to the final line of the commentary. The author has selected the most glaring and extreme examples of poor behavior at EHS and used them to paint an entire school and generation of young people as delinquents. As parents and teachers we are not naive concerning the challenges facing our teens. But the author of this piece seems to forget that while her generation certainly is not perfect we also have students at EHS that should be viewed as inspirations to others. Don't forget Miss Di Valerio, that sharing the halls of EHS with you are students that do not use drugs. There are students that have overcome obstacles that many adults would struggle to handle such as battles with cancer, abuse, and the deaths of loved ones. Our school has a rich tradition of community service and high academic achievement. Our students are athletes, scholars, and friends. Ultimately they are young. As a result they may make mistakes, but I challenge you Miss Da Valerio to focus on the students you know that are worthy of your respect. You are too young to be so cynical.
Terry Biglin October 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM
This isn't a new problem at EHS. Drugs were a problem there when my children attended in the late 90's. The biggest problem is that nothing is done about it. I met with the associate principal at the time at he admitted that it was a problem & nothing was being done to stop it.
Mary Di Valerio October 25, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It's hard not to be cynical when you hear students laughing about another classmate's failed sucide attempt, or make a freshman girl's life so misrable she wants to end it. It's hard to stay postive when you hear kids talking about how much fun it is to drive intoxicated. Walking down the halls behind freshmen talking about their sex lives is enough to make someone sick to their stomach. I agree, there's plenty of very good people at our school. But high school is a microcosim of society. And unfortunately, in our society there are good and bad people. If a healthy dose of reality consitutes as being cynical, then, with all due respect, you're never too young to be cynical.
Renee Heney October 26, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I, also, commend the author's bravery to speak up, and agree that Red Ribbon Week slogans and free candy won't solve the problem of youth substance abuse. A multifacited approach with varied strategies and broad community support will be the only way we will be successful in modifying behavior. I invite the author and all Rockwood students, parents and community members to join us in our efforts to make a difference. Our next RHORS (Rockwood Helping Others Remain Safe) teen meeting will be Monday, 10/29 at 7:00 p.m. at St. John Cornerstone in Ellisville and our next Coalition meeting will be Thursday, 11/8 at 3:45 at LaSalle Springs Middle School.
Eileen Tyrrell October 28, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Mary, Applause, Applause, Applause. Good for you for speaking up and submitting this blog for publication. You not only speak the truth, but you show more fortitude, wisdom, prudence and courage than most district officials, citizens and parents in the Rockwood Community. The truth is, numerous Rockwood students have spoken up and expressed their opinions and points of views on a variety of issues about their school community, but Rockwood Administration and Leadership don't seem to be listening (their words, not mine). Ms Heney response is a breath of fresh air. She offers no excuses, but solutions. She has respectfully acknowledged and validated your point of view; now follow through and accept her invitation. Attend RHORS, participate and make a difference! With admiration and respect, Eileen Tyrrell CoFounder and Spokesperson Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions rsdstakeholders@gmail.com
Eileen Tyrrell October 28, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Mr. Stanley, While I believe you mean well in your response to Miss Di Valerio, your words seem condescending; and your response reads as though you are chastising her for speaking what is clearly the truth. This is Miss Di Valerio's opinion and real-life experience at her high school. I would bet you that at least 50% of EHS students would agree with her assessment of Red Ribbon Week. I for one don't believe Miss DiValerio is being a cynic, but a realist. It is time to LISTEN to our students and their solutions to many issues facing our district and their fellow students. They are wise beyond their years......and ours.
Paul Stanley October 29, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Mrs Tyrell, You did not read my response to the initial post if you thought that it was condescending.I never criticized her analysis of Red Ribbon week. I compliment her bravery and explain my agreement that the program is not effective.Nowhere in my response do I deny drug use amongst teens nor do I claim that she was less than sincere about examples of drug use at EHS. If she had ended the with a focus on drug abuse and ways to improve school interventions I would have never posted.I was focused on the last lines of her column. Instead of solutions she offers a mean spirited rebuke of her peers and generation.She uses the language of Social Darwinism to describe the social dynamic at EHS and writes off an entire generation of young people instead of focusing on the individuals she sees participating in poor behavior. You mention realism as if my post is not respectful of reality.The reality is that EHS is made up of 2,000 students, every one of them with something to offer the world. The reality is that even the students described in the article that are making seriously poor choices as teenagers, will mostly grow up to be decent human beings and contribute to society.Her criticism of Red Ribbon Week was realistic; her tone at the end of the article was cynical.The irony of your response Mrs. Tyrell is that you close by speaking to the “wisdom” of our young people and the importance of their voice.You defend the very generation that Miss Di Valerio seeks to condemn.
Angelina Vitale October 31, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Part 1: I personally feel that Miss DeValerio offers an accurate and courageous, albeit an unpopular, perspective, with a healthy dose of skepticism, based on her personal experiences at EHS as a teen student. In all due respect to you, Mr. Stanley, as a teacher at EHS, I still tend to "hear" the students' voices far louder, especially at this age and on these topics, than the teachers' voices. The students are out there among the "trenches" with many troubled and misguided students/peers. The teachers should play an increased role in teaching and encouraging students to make their voices heard, rather than silencing them with condemnation and publicly accusing them of basically lacking in their own perceptions.
Angelina Vitale October 31, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Part 2: There is an increasingly serious lack of "community" within RSD, partially due to its size, but mostly due to its renowned increased lack of administrative leadership, accountability, and transparency. As Terri mentioned above, the major problem is that nothing is done when parents, students, and, often times, teachers reach out to administrators, beyond the pat public relations response. Ultimately, RSD administration gives its constituents the cold shoulder. And everything continues to simply move along, as usual, while the administration and community debate the financial/political issues “de jour”, which should be completely unnecessary in a transparent public school district. Our time would be spent more wisely on addressing the real needs of the students. It has been glaringly apparent to most parents whom I know and to me for several years that there appears to be an "out of touch with reality" mindset among RSD leaders. I can certainly empathize with the feelings of this young high school girl. I am very proud that she possesses the wisdom, strong identity, and self esteem to stand up for her values and her school. I think we should spend more time supporting our students and openly listening to their views, rather than becoming defensive and somewhat condescending, in any self-serving, perhaps even unconscious efforts, to remain in our own little “bubble” of reality.
Paul Stanley October 31, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Wildwood Taxpayer, Please read my original post. 1.) Never did I discount any of Miss Di Valerio's criticisms of the Red Ribbon program. I clearly compliment her bravery and agree with her assessment of the less than effective program. Your perception that I in some way argued teen drug use is not a problem at EHS and that I am in my own “bubble” of reality is simply unfounded. 2.) My post is focused on the very last lines of her column where she condemns seemingly every high school in America and her entire generation. As an educator and a citizen I found her blanket condemnation to be offensive to every student that seeks to make better choices than those highlighted in her article. 3.) I too value the voices “from the trenches”. I have had several students come up to me to discuss the article and my response. The students I talked to also recognize the problem of drug use at EHS, however they felt insulted by the article and shared with me stories of many of the great things EHS students contribute to our community that Miss Di Valerio ignores in her post. I would point out to you Wildwood Taxpayer that their stories are just as valid and contain just as much truth whether you want to admit it or not. 4.) The sad part about your post is that you seem to think I in some way have mounted a defense of district leadership of district policy when in fact I did nothing of the sort. The only group I defend in my post are the students that I work with every day.
Angelina Vitale November 01, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Mr. Stanley, I am a parent and well aware that the majority of our youth, including EHS students, are outstanding students, citizens and future leaders. I apologize for any ambiguity that lead you to your misconception that I was unwilling to "admit it or not." The author's feelings about drug abuse, intoxicated driving, bullying, teenage suicide, and sex are obviously not geared toward those outstanding, healthy, or even, average/typical students. She is discussing serious sociocultural problems and behaviors with devastating consequences that impact our youth. The purpose of her writing was clearly not a soft news/human interest story. And her final conclusion is her opinion, which she is entitled, as the writer. You essentially chose words of rebuttal that give the impression that she has no right to her opinion based on her experiences, and ask her to, "Focus on the students that you know are worthy of your respect." And you conclude with a harsh, and yes, condescending charge, "You are too young to be so cynical." Finally, my views on RSD's leadership's response to drugs has absolutely nothing to do with you as a teacher, in the same manner that the author's post has absolutely nothing to do with those wonderful students at EHS. Lastly, I am a medical provider with almost 30 years of experience working with troubled youth and drug abuse. Sadly, your sappy statement, "Most will grow up to be decent human beings and contribute to society" is simply untrue. Many will die.
Paul Stanley November 01, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Wildwood Taxpayer,I am happy to hear you recognize that the majority of our students are outstanding citizens. On this we agree.But I disagree with you about the author's article. Here are her final statements:"Most students have no idea the impact drugs have on their bodies.Those that DO know the impact, simply don't care.If you want to gain a solid distaste of humanity, walk through the halls of a high school it's natural selection at its finest.I'd be lying if I said I wasn't utterly ashamed of my generation." This is her opinion and she in entitled to it.Just as I am entitled to point out that I believe she was mean spirited and cynical. As a budding journalist she will face far harsher critics than mine. She already posted a rebuttal, which proves that my comments in no way have discouraged her from sharing her opinions. And my sappy statement is actually true. Statistics show that while a most teens will try illegal drugs, there is a very small population of adults that are regular users. (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends). Having said that, I do understand that drug use is on the rise, and agree it is a problem. I am in no way minimizing those that become addicts or die, but the fact is that most young people are not deserving of the type of scorn evident in the comments above. Miss Di Valerio’s article points out that Red Ribbon week will not help to reduce teen drug use, well neither will insulting the very group we seek to help.
Mary Di Valerio November 01, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Firstly, I'd like to thank those of you who have been standing up for me. Secondly, I'd like to thank Mr. Stanely, for sharing his thoughts. It's important not to repress opinions because that simply leads to frustration. But I'd like to address a few things 1) I am in no way ignoring the "good students" of Eureka. I simply chose not to address them because they, in no way, correlated to the subject matter at hand. 2) I have to disagree with you in that my article was "mean-spirited." It's not mean, it's true. Nothing I said was false. The truth is as bitter was wormwood and sharp as a two-edged sword. It's not pleasant. 3) Yes, I am ashamed of my generation. We're a pretty pathetic, ungrateful, spoiled bunch of people. Can we change that? Of course. But the first step to fixing a problem, Mr. Stanley, is admitting it exists. 4) The amount of support I have received from the "good kids" at Eureka for my article is overwhelming. Many of them agree with my statements and a solid majority have reiterated my statements about being ashamed of their peers. In fact the statement I made about "natural selection" is not original...It's germinated within me for quite sometime after hearing multiple students use it to express frustration with the stupidity of a few of their peers.
Paul Stanley November 02, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Miss Di Valerio, My final post (or more if I exceed the allowed amount per block). Miss Di Valerio, words are a powerful things and as you continue to hone your voice as a writer/journalist I hope that you will keep this exchange in mind. To address your points 1.) Your post did ignore the "good kids" at EHS. By using absolute language like "generation" you by your very words condemn every member of that group, good and bad. If your initial post had said "I am ashamed of the the worst elements of my generation" than you would have been more precise that there "good kids" actually exist. 2 and 3.) Words like "pathetic" are mean spirited, especially when used to describe other human beings. I cannot think of a situation where anyone would not agree with me. I respect your right to think and express whatever view you want, but please do not attempt to mask your condemnation by attempting to say you are only speaking truth. The truth must be born on the back of facts and objective analysis, simply saying something is the truth does not make it so. Your views of your generation are your opinion, the truth about teenagers today is far more complex and certainly cannot be expressed only in words like ungrateful and spoiled. For example, did you know that your generation participates in more hours of community service that any generation in history? That is a truth, and it does not fit neatly into your world view. If you want a complex assessment of your generation read the book
Paul Stanley November 02, 2012 at 12:57 AM
2 and 3 continued... "Generation Me" which provides the most thorough analysis of young people that I have ever read. Let me be clear, I am not naive nor am I denying the struggles that this generation must overcome. However, I am also a student of history and every generation has its own struggles and problems. Look to the 1950s to find a generation wracked by racial strife, look to the 1960s and 70s to see a generation that faced its own struggles with drugs. Look to the middle ages in Europe if you want an example of generations of perpetual ignorance. The truth is never as simple as your initial post makes it seem to be. 4.) Finally, I am glad that you have had the support of your peers, yet I must express my firm disagreement with your extremely one dimensional view that there are "good kids" and apparently "bad kids". The reality is that every student in EHS has the capacity for good and bad and most live day to day in the grey area that is life as an adolescent. Many of the students you condemn as "bad" might actually spend a lot of time doing good. They are not 100% defined by their bad choices and your language that seems to infer they must be is unfortunate. I had friends in high school that made really bad decisions, such as using illegal drugs, yet at the same time they also did things like participate in teaching art classes to students with special needs and contributing time working for Habit for Humanity. How would you classify them I wonder?
Paul Stanley November 02, 2012 at 01:08 AM
4. continued... I would hope that you would not place then into a Social Darwinist context in which they would be unfit human beings. In closing, this thread has been really fun for me. I must congratulate you, your article was meant to create a conversation and it certainly did. More importantly it was a respectful and mature exchange of ideas which is more than I can say for many internet conversations. I want you to know that your passion and eloquence in your writing is a shining example of why I have so much hope for your generation and why I so passionately defend it. I look forward to reading your future blogs, I enjoyed your most recent about feminism. The door to my classroom is always wide open if you wish to further the debate. Have a great weekend!
Angelina Vitale November 06, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Mr. Stanley, I respectfully request, as a RSD parent and medical professional, that you, as a public high school educator, engage in serious introspection about the potential impact/influence of your below-stated public opinions/statements. We are not dealing with the 60s and 70s in terms of drug use or its far-reaching impact and irreversible, devastating consequences on our youth. The choice to use drugs should NOT be considered a simple mistake of youth. Nor do these "poor choices" exist in a vacuum, with addiction as the ONLY impact. THINK: STDs, including HIV/AIDS and carcinogenic HPV, car accidents, teen pregnancies, high school dropout rates, violence, bullying, crime, suicide, homicide, and the beat goes on. Do you realize the sheer sociocultural magnitude of drug experimentation of today's youth? The best proactive prevention to all of the above maladies is to simply avoid drugs that impair one's ability to THINK clearly. And we are charged, as mature adults, parents, and teachers to model and teach by appropriate behavior and words that even "drug experimentation" is never an intelligent choice. I would be extremely disappointed and angry with you if you were my adolescent's favorite teacher, as those teachers have a lot of power over students' choices. And with that power comes responsibility, Mr. Stanley. I challenge you to please spend some time in self reflection and education on drug use instead of defense of your preposterous personal positions.
Angelina Vitale November 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Mr. Stanley's Public Opinions: "Our students are athletes, scholars, and friends. Ultimately they are young. As a result they may make mistakes..." "The reality is that even the students described in the article that are making seriously poor choices as teenagers, will mostly grow up to be decent human beings and contribute to society." "Statistics show that while a most teens will try illegal drugs, there is a very small population of adults that are regular users. (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends)." "I do understand that drug use is on the rise, and agree it is a problem. I am in no way minimizing those that become addicts or die..." "I had friends in high school that made really bad decisions, such as using illegal drugs, yet at the same time they also did things like participate in teaching art classes to students with special needs and contributing time working for Habit for Humanity. How would you classify them I wonder?"
Tired of waste November 08, 2012 at 10:41 PM
this is not just a drug problem at EHS it is at Marquette as well. My son tells me stories about what goes on....it would curl your hair. He knows who is using,dealing and suppling the drugs at this school. He has told the administrators and they throw up their hands and say your word against theirs.... These schools need to have locker searches, lock downs, dogs sniffing clothes etc. by surprise of course. and "weed" the users and the dealers out of the school. A fear of going to jail every few months and exposing these users to the rest of student body would hopefully scare some straight. If we turn our heads to these issues and pretend they will go away we are fooling ourselves. The Kum bi Ya times of the 80s and 90s are over. It didn't work....now it is time to get tough.... Poor choices by students have consceqences. Maybe with junior loses his scholarship or graduation date will wake some parents up...
Olivia Bleeker November 09, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Miss Di Valerio, I appreciate you writing this article, first of all. Your ideas and opinions are most definitely well thought out and clearly conveyed. As a Eureka High School student myself, I agree that drugs are a problem that, most likely, will not be stopped with a piece of candy alone. But, I just want to say that, despite this fact, there are many groups around the school such as Student Council, FCA, or, even a group that reaches out to "inner beauty", that do an amazing job to advocate good throughout the school. And, like I previously said, candy alone will not work. I do agree with you, Miss Di Valerio on this. But, we do need to start somewhere. I personally have a great deal of respect and admiration towards countless students at the high school who display maturity and wisdom to advocate living lives that help others as well as themselves. Like Mr. Stanley said, our generation performs more hours of community service than any other. Statements like these make me incredibly pround and honored to be living in the generation that I am living in.


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