Denise Crosby: Schools earn high marks in fight against heroin
By Denise Crosby email@example.com April 3, 2012 12:52PM
Updated: May 5, 2012 8:05AM
On first glance it was like any other of the myriad messages that go home to parents from the schools. But this one, trust me, was a big deal.
“We are writing a joint message to you once again to let you know about two important meetings taking place in early April. Due to the overwhelming response to the community forum on drugs held in February, both District 204 and District 203 have partnered with the Naperville and Aurora police departments to hold follow-up presentations in larger venues. Presentations will take place in the auditoriums of Naperville North High School on April 3 at 7 p.m. and Neuqua Valley High School on April 5 at 7 p.m.”
The letter went out last week, and a version of it ran on our Letters to the Editor page Sunday. We also published a news story about it, then covered the Tuesday night forum. And here I am, writing about it yet again.
Because this really is a big deal.
Since focusing on the heroin problem last year, we’ve heard from scores of readers — including parents who lost kids to overdoses; drug experts, social workers, former users — many of whom expressed the same frustrations: Schools weren’t doing enough.
And in some ways, they weren’t.
But there were reasons for their hesitancy. Schools have an awful lot on their plates these days, of course. Plus, they tend to respond to the demands of parents. And truth was, there simply was not much of an outcry from the community about the escalating drug problem. For example, the one time Naperville Central held an educational meeting, only 20 people showed up. And many parents were vocally against their schools doing anything because they didn’t want that awful heroin stigma. Besides, many folks complained, educators are supposed to concentrate on the business of preparing students for life after high school — not dealing with a dark social issue that didn’t concern their family.
That all changed in February when well over a thousand people turned out for a community drug forum sponsored by the Naperville Police Department and several private groups. In a dramatic and unexpected turnaround, the schools heard loud and clear that parents finally got it. Heroin, they finally realized, could crash their world — and they wanted educators to get involved.
To their credit, the schools have responded. And they are doing so by pairing up with the police departments, all of which are supported by your tax dollars.
“A lot of people’s eyes have been opened,” said Naperville Police Detective Shaun Ferguson, who has been instrumental from the beginning in trying to bring awareness to our communities. And that awakening included parents who were in denial about the problem and how important their role was in tackling it.
One note worth repeating: Neuqua Valley has been at the epicenter, but heroin is not just a Naperville problem. We received plenty of e-mails and calls from parents in other communities in the Fox Valley who were struggling with addicted kids. Although Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley were not seeing the problem as extensively as Neuqua and Naperville North or Central, their outreach and participation are appreciated and vital, says Ferguson, so they can nip the problem before it gets out of hand. That’s why these community forums also include a partnership with Aurora police.
The scope of the problem will also be addressed when the Kane County Juvenile Drug Court program presents a forum on substance abuse at St. Charles East High School, in the Norris Cultural Center, from 7 to 9 p.m. April 11.
Those connected to the Kane County justice system are extremely alarmed at the increase in substance abuse in those communities. They want to see a full house, we’ve been told, because they see the effects in the courtroom, through defendants, victims and parents who have lost their children to an overdose.
So if you didn’t attend the Tuesday night meeting at Naperville North, make sure you go on Thursday to Neuqua. Or hit the forum at St. Charles East next week.
Because this really is a big deal.