Leader Blues

Monday, December 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>Overdoses concern parent

Article by Heather Hartsell

Searcy attorney Larry Killough, Jr. never thought he would be addressing a group of students on the dangers of prescription drugs – until his son died of an overdose of Methadone and Xanax in May 2006.

“He understood the dangers of drugs, but not the dangers of the prescription drugs he and his friends were using,” Killough told Cabot Junior High North students Wednesday, just one week after 16 CJHN students were placed in the district’s alternative learning environment (ALE) for violating Cabot’s policy against the use and distribution of prescription medication at school.

On Nov. 28, a CJHN student was seen acting strangely by teachers and was found to have taken Baclofen, an anti-spasm/muscle relaxer, while at school. An investigation into the incident revealed the 16 students, now attending ALE, were involved with prescription medication ranging from antibiotics to muscle relaxers.

“I bring a lot of credibility and trustworthiness on this. My son died on some of the same drugs your friends were caught with,” Killough said.

Killough’s son Webb, a Searcy High School junior, was found dead in a parked car and still had some of the same drugs he had taken in his hand.

His father has spoken to about a dozen school and church groups since Webb’s death, sharing his story with others so that they won’t go through what he and his family have experienced.

“If I can save one other student from ruining their life, it’s worth it,” Killough said.

As he told the students, the problem with prescription drugs is the perception that they are not dangerous because a doctor prescribed them – “the problem is they’re not prescribed for you.”

People shouldn’t think their loved ones couldn’t die from taking prescription drugs, Killough warned. “We had the same conversations – he (Webb) thought he was bulletproof,” he said.

“I know if people could feel what we feel and go through what we do daily… it’s been a year now and it’s getting easier, but it’s getting harder in some ways because he’s not coming back. He had so much he could have done,” Killough said.

He told the students that being caught with prescription drugs that don’t belong to them is a Class C felony – three to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

“Don’t give in to the pressure,” he stressed to the students, “if just one of you hears what I’m saying and changes what you’re doing…please don’t get involved in it, it’s not worth it,” Killough said.

He admitted the students probably knew more about what things can be used to get a high, but they don’t understand the combination of drugs that can be deadly.

“You think a little bitty pill looks harmless and couldn’t do that, but it could if taken in wrong amounts,” Killough said. “The little pills my son died from had lots of medicine in them.”


District policies

One in five teens abuse prescription drugs, a problem that has increased in all schools across the U.S., in Cabot and other area school districts.

Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot schools, said the abuse of prescription drugs within Cabot schools will not be tolerated and the students will be severely punished and pay for their actions.

Cabot’s student handbook de-tails the students’ punishment for Level I offenses (using, possessing, being under the influence of) and Level II offenses (selling, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing) per drug and alcohol policy.

A student with a first Level I offense will get immediate out-of-school suspension for 10 days.

After an investigation, a disciplinary hearing is scheduled to determine the appropriate disciplinary action – placement in the alternative learning environment or expulsion from school. ALE placement won’t exceed one school year and won’t be for less than nine weeks. A drug/alcohol assessment must be completed and participation in any required treatment must be started before the student can be considered for reinstatement into the regular school program.

Failure to follow the rules could result in the student’s expulsion from school for up to a year. For the second Level I offense and any Level II offense, the punishment starts out the same – out-of-school suspension, a thorough investigation and disciplinary hearing.

The main difference is the amount of time expelled or placed in ALE – ALE for one year or expulsion for one year. No student expelled or placed in ALE under the policy is eligible to return to regular classes in less than a semester.


Lonoke

In the Lonoke School District, as stated in the student handbook, the administration and use of over-the-counter or prescription medication will occur under the supervision of authorized school personnel.

Using, distributing or attempting to distribute over-the-counter or prescription medications will result in parental notification at the minimum to recommendation for expulsion at the maximum, based on the severity of the infraction and the level of the violation (Level II – possession, use, consumption of alcohol, drugs and inhalants, or Level III – selling, distribution, attempting to sell or distribute).

Lonoke’s Level II punishment includes: 10 days of suspension followed by ALE for no longer than one year and no less than nine weeks, a drug/alcohol assessment, and if the rules aren’t followed, expulsion for up to one school year.

The consequences of Lonoke’s Level III infraction are also the same as Cabot’s Level II – 10 days of suspension followed by a disciplinary hearing to determine whether the students is placed in an alternative learning environment for one year or expelled for one year.


Beebe

The Beebe School District, according to Scott Embrey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, has not seen a problem with prescription drug use this year or in the recent past, not that it hasn’t happened before, he said.

“We are always concerned with any drug use that is going on and have had some students disciplined because of it,” Embrey said.

If a student is caught in possession of drugs (illegal or prescription) or alcohol at school or at a school function, the Beebe district contacts law enforcement authorities, starting with the school resource officer. The student is suspended from school for 10 days with the recommendation for expulsion. If he enrolls in a drug-counseling program, the student is able to come back to school after the suspension, Embrey said.


PCSSD

The Pulaski County Special School District’s policy on drugs and alcohol, a Level III or Level IV infraction, reads much the same as Cabot’s – suspension, removal to a disciplinary alternative education program or expulsion.

For the first Level III offense, possessing, using or being under the influence of illegal drugs, in PCSSD results in the student being suspended for 10 days and placed on probation. The student must show he’s enrolled with a counseling agency, or he will be recommended for expulsion. If the student breaks the rule a second time, he is immediately recommended for expulsion and he may be reported to legal authorities.

A student committing a Level IV offense, selling, attempting to sell/distribute or purchase drugs/alcohol will be reported to legal authorities and will be immediately suspended and recommended for expulsion.


Searcy

Searcy schools have a chemical abuse policy in the high school handbook; chemical abuse or misuse includes but is not limited to, the use of illegal drugs, alcohol and the abuse or misuse of legal drugs and medications.

The athletic department gives random chemical screens to deter chemical abuse or misuse by all athletes and cheerleaders and to encourage and support athletes in their effort to develop and maintain a chemical-free lifestyle.