Park City’s growing drug problem
Park City High School students look normal from the outside. Sure, we must dodge falling rubble on our way to class, but we manage to score high on standardized tests, take plenty of A.P. classes and, until last year, we were the No. 1 high school in the state.
But in some respects Park City kids may be too normal like when it comes to drugs and alcohol abuse. Perhaps the best kept secret in Park City is just how many kids are involved in drugs and alcohol.
While in many communities there are specific cliques (the druggies, the cool kids, the partiers) the interesting thing about Park City is that these three are combined and when we asked them about Park City High’s drug problem there were mixed responses. One thing everyone said though was that they wanted their comments to be anonymous.
One of the main concerns involving drug use at Park City High School is that is seems to be kept relatively quiet. Naturally, you can hear kids talking in the halls about their wild weekends but as far the issue being talked about by authority figures it doesn’t happen that often.
Most teachers turn a deaf ear when they hear kids bragging about alcohol and many teachers will even joke about it. Health teachers cover the required topic they seem to be unable to drive it into kids minds that alcohol counts as a drug, and that while pot seems harmless it’s not.
The few lockdowns a year, complete with drug dogs, rarely yield results, since the partying doesn’t take place at school, but on the weekends.
One junior said, "I don’t think the school properly deals with the drug problem." A classmate added that lockdowns aren’t effective since "we know about them a few days before they happen."
But if the actual use of drugs doesn’t happen at the school is it still the school’s problem? Since the topic is kept so hush-hush kids feel like they can easily get away with it.
"There’s obviously a problem with drug use, but there’s no way we can fix it because it has gotten too big and too common," said one senior.
When no one will acknowledge a problem, no on will try to fix it. Last year, the high school’s journalism staff tried devote an entire edition to the drug problem. The cover featured a picture of drugs and the lead articles contained gritty editorials and features articles regarding Park City’s growing drug epidemic.
Unfortunately, no one saw this paper. Thanks to the Hazelwood case, denying freedom of the press at school newspapers, the high school administration pulled the paper.
When asked why, former principal, Hal Smith said it "presented a controversial and sensitive topic too soon." Also, he said the opinion pieces on the front page could hurt many people’s feelings. While many of the articles were allowed to stay, the staff was banned from putting pictures of drugs on the cover. It was another example of how people are avoiding the issue.
Why have so many smart kids gotten into the drug scene? Because it is what the so-called ‘cool kids’ do. It’s amazing just how many kids who party and get drunk every weekend still are in the top 10 percent and on varsity sports.
A few students in different grade levels said that they felt ‘to be cool or popular you pretty much need to drink or smoke pot. It’s what that crowd does.’
A teacher at Park City High School said " I don’t ask myself if there are going to be deaths from drug use, I just wonder how many."
Not all ‘cool’ kids drink every weekend, but the stigma at the high school is that a fun time must involve some kind of alcohol. While the a recent study called The Majority Report claims most kids don’t drink, hall talk and the Web site Facebook suggests otherwise.
"Our drug problem is way worse than other schools, it’s the rich kids who have all the money and nothing else to do," said a senior who had previously lived in New York. A junior quickly interrupted to add that her old school, a private school in Salt Lake City, was worse.
It’s not money that compels kids to drink every weekend with their friends, it’s because they can and believe they should.
"Very few groups brag about how much fun they had playing card games over the weekend, unless of course the card game involved drinking," said a student. It is almost a right of passage to show up at a large party, get drunk, make out with someone you barely know, and then be able to see fellow partiers in the hall on Monday and loudly inquire about your actions that you don’t remember.
"I know there is a drug problem at Park City because I am part of it. I started because it seemed like the thing everyone was doing," said another senior.
This is the stark reality of it and more people get drawn to it every day. Out of five diverse kids I talked to, two admitted coming to school at one point drunk or high. While this is less common and more extreme, if the Majority Report asked one question, do you drink or do drugs at least once a month, I think the community would be stunned by the response.
The problem may have progressed beyond any fast repair, but there are still things that can be done to scale it back. The majority of kids who do drink can easily acquire the alcohol either through an older friend or a friend who has a fake I.D. And where do the festivities take place — at friends’ houses whose parents are out, or at condos.
So parents, it’s not enough to just tell your kids drugs are bad, this isn’t just a school problem, it’s a lack of community awareness. Probably, most parents reading this think it pertains to every kid but theirs — not true.
As one student told us, "Every day you hear about a new person who got drunk or high, and with a lot of the people it would really surprise you that they have given into this trend."
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