Schools Plan ‘Parent Engagement’ Nights to Fight Drug Abuse

School Superintendent James F. Scully

Scully ‘Shocked’ By Results of Student Drug Use Survey

In response to “the opioid crisis and the challenges associated with it,” Haverhill Public Schools, is having a series of “parent engagement” workshops to help children steer clear of substance abuse.

The first of four workshop presentations on “Substance Abuse & the Adolescent Brain: Our Kids Are At The Crossroads” takes place from 6 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27, in the cafeteria at John Greenleaf Whittier Middle School, 256 Concord St. Results from an anonymous survey of Haverhill High School students were released by the school department last October, on “issues related to suicide, illegal drug use and alcohol consumption.” It indicated the number of students who used or experimented with illegal drugs and alcohol exceeds the state average, according to Haverhill Superintendent of Schools James F. Scully. In an e-mail to school parents Wednesday, Scully said the district’s numbers have “continued to increase significantly over the past two years” and he was “shocked” when he read the statistics.

“While we all relish the successes of our students, the challenges that youngsters face today are greater than ever. Peer pressure and the availability of drugs and prescription medications are in my words, out of control,” Scully said. “Often we find out about the tragedies way too late.  Children in Haverhill and in communities across the Commonwealth are at a crossroad and frequently we are not there to provide the direction needed.”

During the forum at Whittier School, “pizza and childcare will be provided,” according to a flyer. Three other workshops will take place March 1 at Consentino Middle School, 685 Washington St.; March 29, at Nettle Middle School, 150 Boardman St.; and May 3, at Hunking Middle School, 480 South Main St.

Existing student substance use counseling services offered by Haverhill schools include the “Screen, Triage, Referral, Ongoing support, Navigation and Growth (STRONG)” program in grades 6 to 12. While services are confidential and voluntary, “students found in possession/believed to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol will be required to meet for counseling upon re-entry from suspension,” according to the department’s website.

The STRONG program mission, “to promote wellness and resiliency for students impacted by drug and alcohol use through prevention, education, counseling, and referrals to community based treatment,” envisions “an empowered and drug free school community,” a statement said. “A confident student body who effectively utilize coping skills to address various barriers to healthy development, learning and wellness, to achieve success.”