HOWLAND HIGH SCHOOL Student's poll shows teens want more action against drugs

Howland's principal said the suspensions for tobacco use have dropped drastically.
HOWLAND -- Students think that high school teachers do not do enough to stop drug use in schools, according to an independent poll done by a Howland High School student.
More than 80 percent of the 400 teens polled by Prem Shah said teachers do not take appropriate action when they spot drug use.
"If teachers see [drug use], the students should be getting in trouble," Shah said. "But a lot of times, the teacher will ignore it."
Behind the scenes: Howland principal Frank Thomas said though teachers won't always say something to suspected students in class, they will talk to administrators about the problem. After that, faculty members watch the students to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Thomas added that drug-discipline efforts -- especially for tobacco -- have been successful. In the 1996-97 school year, more than 100 students were suspended for tobacco use. In 2000-01, about 20 were suspended.
"This means either one of two things," Thomas said. "Either students know if they're caught with tobacco they'll be dealt with right away, and don't use it anymore, or they've gotten a lot better at hiding smoking in the building."
Other schools: The other questions on the 16-year-old's poll also involved drug use in schools. He wanted to see what other students in Trumbull, Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties thought about drugs in their schools.
More than half said they wanted more drug education in schools. Almost 60 percent said they'd seen drugs used on school grounds, and 44 percent said they'd seen drug sales on school grounds.
Shah included alcohol and tobacco products, along with illegal and prescription drugs.
"If students want to do well in school, they should be in an environment where they can focus on studying," Shah said. Drugs "affect a school's ability to get new students and new teachers."
Over the past eight months, he's given the poll to friends, friends of friends and just random high school students he's met. Shah conducted the poll on his own time, not for any class, to find out if other students shared his opinions about drugs in school.
He first got the idea for a poll when he was a freshman.
"I knew there'd be a change between eighth and ninth grade, but it was so big," Shah said. "I saw every sort of drug -- I was shocked. I wanted to see if others agreed."
No surprise: Thomas said he's not surprised about the increased presence of drugs in schools, but he attributes it to the age of the students.
"This is the age when kids are going to be a little more independent," he said. "Kids are going to take the rules and say 'No, I want to do it this way.' You're always going to see an increase."
Shah hopes the results of his poll will surprise educators and perhaps push them to come up with more ways to teach students about drugs.

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