Residents stress need for parental involvement
The students who were arrested are still attending school.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- Most residents asked about teen drinking concerns and drug arrests here said it's not a poor reflection on the whole community, but they stressed that parents need to better control their kids, who should pay for their actions.
Debates about alcohol and drug prevention are popping up in the city after police arrested 10 young people this week, including six Girard High School students, on charges of selling marijuana.
These arrests came on the heels of a New Year's Eve party that left one high school girl drunk and unconscious.
Many residents -- about 20 -- asked by The Vindicator on Friday didn't want to talk about the topic. "No, no, no. I'm not touching that," one middle-aged woman said.
David and Mary Tennant, however, said they moved to Girard seven years ago primarily because of the good school system. Now, they're ready to leave for a list of reasons -- including concerns about problems in the schools.
"It's just getting worse. I don't see this getting any better," David Tennant said.
Mary Tennant said her children are now out of school, but she has grandchildren who will one day walk the high school halls. The thought of drugs and other activities at the school is unsettling to her.
David Tennant said the same problems exist in a lot of other school districts, but Girard has to work toward eliminating it.
Superintendent Joseph Jeswald said the district is working to wipe out teen use of drugs and alcohol and make young people aware of the consequences of such negative activity.
"Drug and alcohol use cannot be tolerated, and that will be the message from parents and the school," he said.
The district will continue with its long-term comprehensive plan involving parents, drug prevention agencies and a list of programs and a parent group. "I am proud of the fact that we do handle these types of things," he said.
Joseph Stephens, another resident, said efforts by the school are fine, but responsibility for controlling kids' actions ultimately will rest with parents. He said parents should know if their kids have extra cash from drug activity.
"No matter what intervention the high school does, this stuff is still going to happen," he said.
Resident John Wheatley said those young people arrested for reported drug activity brought unnecessary danger to the city. He said they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
"This brings a lot of problems to the city," he said. "Keep the elderly and children safe."
The adults charged with trafficking in marijuana, all of Girard, are: Danilo Comichista, 18, of Oak Street; Matt Polinsky, 18, of Cheyenne Avenue; Mark Ragozine, 18, of Navajo Trail; David C. Miller, 25, of East Main Street; Jonathan Karabin, 19, of Maple Avenue; Zachary Diamond, 18, of East Howard St.; and Ryan Pezzuto, 18, of North Highland Avenue.
Comichista, Polinsky and Ragozine, the son of Girard High School Principal Ron Ragozine, are students. The names of three minors were not released by Girard police.
Mayor James Melfi said the young people arrested are generally good kids from good families. He said similar issues have taken place at schools across the country.
"I don't think Girard is any different than any place else. We are disappointed that Girard kids would get involved in something like this, but we are realistic," he said. "It's important that we make young people aware that this is wrong and support the school in its [anti-drug and alcohol use] efforts."
Jeswald said the high school students who were arrested are still attending school because the reported activity took place off school grounds.
The school, he said, does have a policy on alcohol and drug use that prohibits students involved in such activity from attending or participating in extracurricular events.