Lyndonville targets alcohol, tobacco use among students

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2015 at 12:00 am

School district, law enforcement warn of consequences

Photos by Tom Rivers – Lee Dillenbeck, Lyndonville athletic director and dean of students, said the school district has held student assemblies to talk about e-cigarettes, alcohol and tobacco use to stress students shouldn’t use those products. Dr. Aaron Slack, middle-high school principal, also spoke during a panel discussion Tuesday night on current trends and issues in drug and alcohol use among youth.

LYNDONVILLE – A recent survey of students in grades 6 through 12 at Lyndonville shows more students are using tobacco and alcohol products in 2013 than in 2011, and Lyndonville also has a higher percentage of students using the products compared to the county-wide rate.

The district has held assemblies to warn students of the health and legal repercussions of using tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Lyndonville also has a simulation of a drunk driving crash in May during prom season to send the message about the dangers of underage drinking.

In this simulation in May 2013, firefighters and emergency responders take a student from a smashed car and transport her by stretcher to an ambulance. The school district is trying to show the dangers of drunk driving.

The district had a panel discussion about drug and tobacco trends among students on Tuesday night. Jason Smith, school district superintendent, wants to engage parents and the community to bring the numbers down and also to avoid a future tragedy.

“Prom night is the most stressful night for me as superintendent,” Smith said. I don’t want to get that phone call about a tragedy. I don’t want to be waiting in a line with hundreds of kids at a funeral home.”

Jason Smith

Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse facilitated the discussion. GCASA also does the student surveys every two years, with new surveys planned for 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Lyndonville and Orleans County middle and high schoolers are showing increased use of e-cigarettes and marijuana.

The numbers show percentage of students that tried alcohol, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and marijuana within 30 days of the survey.

Lyndonville students, at just over 20 percent, lead in trying smokeless tobacco within 30 days from when the survey was taken in 2013. Twenty percent of students in grades 6 through 12 also reported to have used marijuana within 30 days of the survey.

Alcohol use is much higher with nearly 45 percent of Lyndonville students saying they tried it within 30 days of the survey.

This chart shows student alcohol use, according to the survey results from 2013.

Ken Strickland, a deputy with the Sheriff’s Department, said many parents keep alcohol in their homes and students will consume it, sometimes without their parents knowing and often with support of their parents.

Strickland said parents could be charged with unlawful dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child if underage drinking occurs on their property.

If a kid gets hurt or dies in a car crash or from alcohol poisioning, the parents could be sued, Strickland said.

Strickland said he is surprised how many parent-condoned drinking parties occur during prom and graduation season.

“You’d be amazed at how many people are OK with this,” Strickland said.

Deputy Ken Strickland, left, was among the panelists during Tuesday’s discussion of alcohol and tobacco trends. Dr. Magdi Credi, a physician, also discussed the health dangers of using the products.

The school district isn’t OK with it. Lee Dillenbeck, the athletic director and dean of students, said students are likely to be suspended or kicked off teams for underage drinking and using tobacco products.

He attributed some of Lyndonville’s high numbers in 2013 to older high school students buying alcohol and tobacco products and then reselling them to middle schoolers. The district has stepped up efforts to educate students about the dangers and confront older students suspected of selling to younger students.

The village of Lyndonville also made a cemetery across from the district campus off-limits for smoking, and school officials said that has helped prevent tobacco use.

Rebekah Hoffee, a three-sport athlete at Lyndonville, said she and many of her teammates try to use positive peer pressure to keep students from violating the code of conduct by smoking and drinking.

“The teams are supportive,” Hoffee said. “As a friend you pull people back into the light when they go searching for darkness.”

Rebekah Hoffee said a busy student schedule may be the best way to keep students from using drugs, alcohol and tobacco products. Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, is at left.

Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, said e-cigarettes and vape pens are new threats for teen substance abuse. Teens think the e-cigarettes are safer, but they are also addicting and dangerous, she said.

Manufacturers offer e-cigarettes in kid-friendly flavors such as watermelon and root beer.

“They come in a variety of flavors that are appealing to young people,” she said.

Dr. Magdi Credi, a physician, said smoking damages lungs, increases cancer risks and reduces circulation. Drinking alcohol as a kid “is going to affect your system, especially if you drink a full force,” he told students at the panel discussion.

Drinking alcohol while the brain is still developing “will be harmful,” he said.

“If you drink at 14 and 15, by your 20s there is no doubt you will not be like a normal person,” he said.

GCASA officials say vape pens, e-cigarettes and vapor flavors are some of the newest enticements for teens and younger children.

Aaron Slack, the principal, urged parents to be aware of what their children are doing and ask questions. “If you see something, say something,” Slack said.

He also urged students to tell adults if they know other students are using drugs, drinking alcohol or using tobacco products. The information will be kept confidential by the school.

“Students aren’t snitches if they say something,” Slack said.