JACKSON – There were no reported incidents involving students with alcohol or prescription drugs from January through June 2018 in the Jackson School District.
During a Board of Education meeting on Aug. 28, Ray Milewski, the district’s director of security, presented the annual report detailing incidents of serious student misconduct in the areas of harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB), violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse.
He said there were 27 incidents of students using marijuana, but only one incident of a student in possession of marijuana. There were four incidents in which a student refused an examination after being suspected of substance abuse. Milewski said a refused examination is treated as if the student tested positive for drugs.
One board member asked where vaping fits into the picture. Vaping is the inhaling of vapor through the mouth from a device that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid. Marijuana can be delivered through vaping.
“Vaping is a growing problem throughout our schools, you see a lot of vaping stores that are opening … The products are out there, they are available online. We do have a problem with vaping incidents increasing,” Milewski said.
“We saw over this last reporting period some instances where students were in possession of (vaping devices) and upon further examination by school resource officers, we determined that in some of those instances those vapes contained THC, which is a primary ingredient in marijuana,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco said there has been an increase in marijuana incidents over the last two years “and it is not because people are walking in with more (marijuana) joints.”
Vaping devices do not necessarily contain THC, so students who are found to be using them may be handled in a similar fashion to other tobacco products. Administrators said the school district has programs to educate students about the negative impact vaping chemicals could have on their lungs.
Responding to the information Milewski presented, board President Scott Sargent called the data regarding the lack of reported alcohol and prescription drug use “pretty remarkable” and said, “We must have some amazing parenting and amazing education that there is zero alcohol and prescription drug incidents in school, that is remarkable.”
Board Vice President Vicki Grasso responded, saying, “I think we know (drugs) are there, but it is totally different to ascertain (the use).”
Genco said, “respectfully, it is a community effort,” but acknowledged he does not live in a bubble.
“I believe for the most part that our kids are trying to make good choices … Do I believe every child is making good choices? Absolutely not, that is why we have stats, that is why we do the education, that is why we do the reporting and track our data,” he said.
Genco said Jackson has its issues just like any other school district.
“Does every school district report zero (for alcohol and prescription drugs)?” Sargent asked. “If we are going to mention other schools, I am asking (if) other schools mark a zero (for) alcohol and prescription drugs? I would say probably not.”
Grasso said she found the reported numbers difficult to believe, especially with two high schools the size of Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty.
“And as an educator, I would imagine the numbers are probably a little higher,” Grasso said.
According to information provided by district administrators, between July 2017 and June 2018 there were 72 incidents of substance abuse, 40 violent incidents, 11 incidents of vandalism, 26 HIB incidents and four incidents involving weapons.
In regard to action taken, police were notified with no complaint filed 11 times, and there were four instances where police were notified and a complaint was filed. There were three in-school suspensions and 83 out-of-school suspensions.
Between January and June 2018, there were 32 HIB investigations initiated on the elementary school level, 10 incidents were confirmed and 22 incidents were unfounded.
During that same time, there were 10 HIB investigations initiated on the middle school level, with four incidents being confirmed.
There were 13 investigations initiated on the high school level and four incidents were confirmed, according to the presentation.
Being demeaning toward another individual, name calling, making offensive comments, mocking, teasing, pushing and inappropriate touching can be classified as HIB incidents.
Administrators said the confirmed HIB incidents involved nine in regard to an individual’s appearance, three in regard to race or ethnicity, three involving gender, two regarding gender identity expression, one involving sexual orientation and one involving home circumstances.