Sally Halbach, mother of two Boise High School students, attended the community dialogue meeting Tuesday, January 25 expecting answers about student drug use. What she got was a table full of brochures about drugs and a two-hour work session with close to 200 Boise High parents, teachers and community leaders including Boise City Council members Maryanne Jordan, David Eberle, Idaho State Senator Mike Burkett, the new and former Boise City Police Chiefs and Mayor Dave Bieter among others.
"I was dissapointed that they didn't explain what the problem was," said Halbach. "How many kids are doing it? How many students have left Boise High because of it? How can and can't we deal with students who are using it? What is being done by substance abuse counselors? Are there any counselors? There is no information system in place except those rumors swirling around us."
What exactly is "it" and why did so many parents attend a meeting about "it?" One parent stood up and said he hadn't heard the word used in any of the dialogue he had heard so far that night--heroin. "The 'H' word was never said," Halbach stressed to BW with anger and frustration in her voice.
The meeting involved over 30 tables of five to eight people outlining their concerns with markers on large sheets. The process was repeated with them outlining solutions for those concerns. Without full knowledge of what they should be concerned about, many parents left feeling more lost than when they came in.
While some parents sought more answers, others were quite aware of the problems as reported by their children who attend a school that has seen a marked increase in drug use, specifically heroin, inside its halls. Concerns the parents identified through the dialogue included a lack of resources to help families at the local level, easy access to cheap and powerful illegal drugs on campus, inadequate detox and rehab facilities in Boise, anti-drug campaigns that don't work and a lack of after-school activities.
Solutions proposed by participants in the workshop include increasing the number of drug abuse counselors on campus, closing campuses, enforcing a strict zero-tolerance policy, pressuring the city and community to establish a detox facility, random drug-testing of all students, placing drug dogs on campus and the development of an anonymous hotline for parents, students and teachers to report suspected drug use.
Nancy Lemas, mother of two Boise School District students, came expecting an open dialogue, but not around a table. "I would like to see statistics," she said. "How many deaths have been as a result of drugs and how many citations?" She was pleased with the meeting and happy to see some BHS students participating in the dialogue. She has heard through her own daughters of other kids who have used heroin. They ask why can't they have a forum like the parents had.
Noticeably absent by many parents were any of the six Boise School Board trustees. "Where was the School Board?" Halbach asked. Four trustees contacted by BW said they didn't know about the meeting until it was recapped in the Idaho Statesman the next day. School Board President Rory Jones found out about the meeting from a flyer his son brought home. He attended briefly before leaving.
School Board Trustee Bea Black insisted she would have attended the meeting had she known about it. "This is not just a school problem. This is not just a family problem. This is a community wide problem. It's going to take parents, teachers, police and everyone else to come together. Until the community decides there is a problem, we'll continue to have one," she said.
Halbach concured, "This isn't Pleasantville anymore. We have to grow up and be adults."
Boise High Principal Ken Anderson called the special meeting specifically for Boise High parents but invited neighbors and community leaders to participate in the dialogue as well. At the close of the meeting he said the next meeting is planned for February 15, where further discussions about what will happen next and what the steps to finding a solution for "it" will be.