Drug education prioritized at VHS
Elias Cantebury, Reporter
As with many school administrations, the school district experiences its fair share of difficulties in preventing student drug use. With a recent spike in local fentanyl overdoses, drug abuse and drug education have come to the forefront of student and staff discussion.
There are many groups throughout the school that focus on drug education. These include the health class’s drug curriculum, Teen Council, and Teens Leading Change (TLC).
TLC has been particularly active lately with their drug prevention campaign. Through the use of posters around the school that say some variation of the familiar slogan “just say no,” the most recent approach has been an abstinence-only take on drug use.
“The focus is abstinence. However, we know people do make choices even at your age, even in the high school level … The choice is always people’s choice, but the education is to prevent,” Prevention and Intervention counselor Moana Trammel said.
Trammell joined the high school staff in 2018 and works with students and staff to create curriculums about drug use at the high school.
“My role here is to support students prevent or reduce the impact of substance use,” Trammel said.
Trammel also works to send students toward other resources that they may need.
“Part of my work is to do referrals and when students are referred … I sit down with students, do one on ones, have conversations with them, [and] do a screening, which identifies what the risk level is for those students,” Trammel said. “From that screen[ing], [I] determine where to refer them. Referrals can be mental health, and of course our NeighborCare’s right here.”
Programs like Teen Council are also actively working at the high school to educate students about the risks surrounding drugs and the safety precautions that can be taken.
This year, Maya Batisti has taken over the role of facilitator for Teen Council from Kyle Britz.
“This year is kind of like the transition year where I’m learning how to do it,” Battisti said. “I sit in on meetings, we run those together, and then like towards the middle of the year, I’ll start to take over more of that. And then next year I’ll be the sole facilitator about preparing the management role.”
The goal of Teen Council is to have students educate students and give them the information necessary to make decisions for themselves. Ideally, their open-minded approach will encourage more discussion about teen drug use.
“The mission is … nonjudgmental, medically accurate, peer-to-peer education with the goal of ending stigma, improving tolerance, reducing ignorance, and improving communication with the important people in their lives,” Battisti said.
Two weeks ago, Teen Council members gave presentations to all SMART classes on the use and abuse of opiates. The discussions were entirely student-led.
“The opioid lesson came about because the students really wanted to be able to reach the entire student body to teach about a topic that was relevant to their peers in a really nonjudgmental and non-shaming way,” Battisti said. “This was [a topic] that they just felt really passionate about.”
Battisti encourages students to connect with her if they ever need support.
“If you come to me I’m going to be like, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ And then we’re going to do that,” Battisti said. “I’m not going to tell you what you need to do or how you need to do it.”
From the expertise of Trammel to NeighborCare to the work of Teen Council, Vashon has multiple support options to help high school students with drug education and prevention. The DOVE project, high school counselors, and Battisti are also available, and if a student has concerns about seeking help, Battisti encourages them to talk to Teen Council.
“If you ever have any questions about Teen Council, go up to one of the people … and ask them about it,” Battisti said. ”See what they think and what’s working for them and what’s not working for them.”