Letters for Sept. 14, 2003
Meeting a farce
I attended the City Council meeting on the night of Sept. 9 in the hope of watching small-town democracy in action. What I saw instead was a criticism session straight out of the 1960s Chinese Cultural Revolution.
A small group of interest groups manipulated the program with what seemed to be the benign consent of the Council and turned what should have been a straightforward hearing on police activities into an event only P.T. Barnum could appreciate.
The Paris mob, at the instigation of its sponsored interest groups, hijacked the proceedings that should have started with J.D. Hays and ended with citizen commentary. Instead, the proceedings on law enforcement activities opened with a two-hour open microphone session that allowed a number of disgruntled and angry residents to vent their disapproval and hostility toward local and state law enforcement agencies. Though a few spoke in support of law enforcement, Hays had his 15 minutes of fame only at the end of the session. The council members did nothing to control the agenda or even admonish hecklers at the back of the room during pro-law enforcement comments.
Unfortunately, many of the complaints, though worrisome, were open-ended and in many instances may well have been about other law enforcement or public service agencies, such as the Routt County Sheriff’s Office or possibly even the Colorado State Patrol. Hays carried the water for all these agencies and should be applauded for his efforts. One wonders why the others weren’t present. Had the council not invited them?
Most of those that spoke felt victimized by local law enforcement because of perceived harassment or ill treatment. The most consistent and recognizable complaint seemed to be about the conduct of law enforcement during potential DUI stops.
Most were concerned that the police were stopping drivers for no reason other than harassment. Some charged that police don’t tell motorists that roadside tests are voluntary. “If everyone says it, it must be true.” The fallacy in this line of reasoning is obvious, even to the casual observer.
Unfortunately, the interest groups that have worked so hard to arouse the public’s ire benefit more from the alleged misunderstandings than they would from a true resolution of the issues. Such a resolution would not serve their interests.
The more disgruntled the residents are, and the more questionable issues they raise, the better it is for business.
I would hope it is only a matter of time before those who feel victimized by police recognize they’ve really been victimized by special interest groups with their own financial and political agendas. Next time they have a complaint, they should take it to the responsible agency.
Drug policy is good
On behalf of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, I am writing to commend administrators and the board at Hayden High School on their decision to implement a random drug testing policy. This decision did not come easily for the school district, and it sought the input of students, parents, and the community before the policy was established. The new policy is very radical, and has been met, not surprisingly, with some opposition from parents and students.
It is, however, a very needed step in curbing the growing drug problem in the Hayden school district. After years of trying to deal with students who come to school high on drugs, administrators finally needed to take drastic measures to ensure that all students are receiving the best education possible, without the distractions that drug use brings into the classroom.
Administrators do not want to intrude upon the private lives of students but only want to control what is happening in their school, during school hours. There are three levels of disciplinary action which the students will face if they test positive. Consequences include: (depending on whether it is a first, second, or third offense) loss of campus lunch privileges, completion of a substance abuse counseling or treatment program, school suspension, and possibly criminal charges.
We feel that these consequences are fair and will be effective and allow students and parents to promptly address any substance use/abuse issues.
The random drug testing policy is not meant to curb drug use entirely, but to lessen the occurrence of students smoking marijuana and using other substances during the lunch hour. Kids will not stop using drugs because of the random testing. If they are already using, they will opt to not leave school at lunch.
There are, however, great benefits to the new policy. If students no longer use drugs at lunch because of the fear of getting drug tested, the school environment will be safer and more conducive to learning.
Also, suppose that a student is hanging out with friends on the weekend and is offered drugs. The student may feel uncomfortable if he or she chooses not to use and fears that they will not be considered “cool” if they refuse. The student could simply state that they want to enjoy their lunch hour off campus and would not want to risk getting tested, therefore giving them a good excuse to say no.
We believe that if just one youth resists drugs because of this new policy, then it can be deemed a great success.
Grand Futures is a nonprofit, substance abuse prevention and awareness agency serving Routt County. Our mission is to provide a framework for the community to create and promote positive, healthy lifestyles as alternatives to substance abuse for youth.
Our agency is able to offer a multitude of information and education to school staff, parents and youths regarding the dangers of substance abuse and about specific drugs that have been found in our community. We also offer information and training on parenting issues.
We will be implementing a new pilot program, entitled Creating Lasting Family Connections, which engages youths and their parents. This program not only deals with substance use and abuse issues, but also addresses setting family rules and boundaries, helps parents establish effective communication with their children, and strengthens the family unit as a whole.
We will offer this program to the Hayden school district as a resource to which they can refer families. We hope that with our prevention efforts, as well as those from the community, such as this new drug testing policy, our schools will be a safer, healthier place for all our children.
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition
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Routt County will give the town of Hayden $35,000 to support construction on the Hayden Center, which has an overall price tag of $6.5 million to $7 million.