High School Drug Use Rates Remain Unclear

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Although Berkeley High School officials took extra precautions against drug and alcohol use at the school's annual Rally Day event Friday, members of the school community disagreed about the extent of drug use.

Though a spokesperson for Berkeley Unified School District characterized drug and alcohol use on the day of the rally-which is the culmination of a week of spirit events-as "absolutely not" an obvious problem, students and a board member of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association said drug and alcohol use was an issue.

The school administration formed a new task force this year to address drug and alcohol use and the school took precautionary measures to discourage use among students, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

Coplan, who attended Rally Day events, said although there may have been issues with drugs and alcohol there, any instances of use were not obvious to him.

"There were 30 parent volunteers who helped staff supervise (Rally Day)," Coplan said. "Every student coming back from lunch had to go through safety officers. They had to show their ID and appear to be sober."

However, a senior at the school who was present on Rally Day and preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of consequences said more than half of the student body used drugs or alcohol that day. She added that she spent her lunch break drinking a bottle of Bacardi rum with three friends outside of a nearby YMCA.

"You go out (to lunch) early and come back early," she said. "The security guards aren't there in the beginning."

In an e-mail sent last Thursday to parents, PTSA Vice President Mark van Krieken urged them to speak to students about drug and alcohol use.

"Over the years, students we've spoken with consistently estimate that about a third of their fellow students are under the influence of alcohol on Rally Day," van Krieken said. "Many BHS staff members we've spoken with have stated that those numbers are probably accurate."

In a phone interview, van Krieken said there was too much tolerance of drugs and alcohol from parents, school staff and the community.

Coplan said there are no new measures being considered to address use at future Rally Days.

"There are no specific reasons that we would have to take preventative measures against a problem we don't have," he said.


Contact Alan Cai at [email protected]

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