Is Drug Education to Blame for SWAT? – Con

Devin Mottier, Staff Writer

Over winter break, the media reported about teenage drug use at SWAT, an annual ski trip offered to Bay Area students. The story was quickly used to make grand assumptions and generalizations about our community’s drug culture and the drug education that has taught our students. However, a lack of drug education isn’t at fault for the SWAT fiasco, but rather some students’ natural urge to disregard rules and regulations to “have a good time.” While it’s unfortunate, a problem as large as drug use can’t be prevented for everyone because there will always be someone who disregards the rules.

The students who brought drugs and alcohol on the trip made the conscious decision to do so, despite their prior knowledge obtained from drug education. Many of the teenagers attending SWAT did not bring these illicit items. The root of the issue is the students who brought the items, not a lack of drug education as a whole.

It’s unfair to lump all the teenagers who attended SWAT under one huge, drug filled category because not all of them participated in the illegal activity. It’s simply another case of peer pressure and a few individuals tainting an entire situation.

According to California Education Code Section 51260-51269,  “Instruction on drug education should be conducted in conjunction with courses” and “such instruction shall be sequential in nature and suited to meet the needs of students at their respective grade levels.” Every student on the bus to Salt Lake City, had they attended California public schools for the entirety of their education, received at least 10 years of grade appropriate drug and alcohol education.

Also, when the 250 sophomores, juniors, and seniors signed up for Summer Winter Action Tours’ three day ski trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, they were asked to sign a behavior contract stating their zero-tolerance for use of drugs and alcohol. As the agreement progresses, it states, “by signing this form, you understand and acknowledge that failure to comply with SWAT’s zero-tolerance policy may result in you being barred from participating in the Adventure or your removal and ejection from SWAT El Niño 2011.” Students were provided with several warnings from both a health and legal standpoint, yet they still chose to rebel.

Even with drug education aside, students know that bringing drugs over state borders is a federal offense. The fear of being caught shouldn’t have been the only thing holding kids back from carrying illicit items.

Another huge factor in the SWAT catastrophe that has been largely overlooked was the overall lack of responsible supervision. Having a 1:20 ratio of barely legal, 21-year-old staff to a large group of rampant teenagers is absolutely ridiculous.

SWAT staff members, although technically of legal age are only a handful of years older than the students that attended SWAT. Thus, the students likely don’t see them as authoritative figures.

Lack of parental support in double-checking the contents of their children’s bags also contributed greatly to the bust. “Prior to the trip’s departure date, we asked all parents to check their travelers’ luggage for any contraband items.  This simple, common sense practice was grossly overlooked and ignored by the parents we work so hard to appease and the students we tirelessly look after,” wrote Thomas Jaenichen, SWAT’s president, in an email to parents. “While many parents and families did follow through with the few tasks we asked of them, there was a clear and blatant disregard for the safety of others by those who failed to do so.”

California drug education does the best it can to inform students of the risks of drug and alcohol use, but it always comes down to individual choice.

Interested in the counterargument? Check out Managing Editor Sophia Bollag’s: