by Michael Christianson
After meeting with city officials behind closed doors about the situation involving drugs at Dryden High School, Director of Education for the Keewatin Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) Sean Monteith, joined by board members and high school administration, spoke to council last week to put the facts before the public.
“I’m here tonight as the Director of Education, with my administration with me, to let you know in Dryden, as the mayor and council, we have a problem in Dryden. We have a problem that is pervasive and most pressing when it comes to young people who come to our high school, in fact, I’m going to tell you as the Director of Education with data that we have, that I won’t share tonight because it is internal data, when it refers to incidents of discipline or incidence of access to drugs, under the influence or trafficking, Dryden High School stands apart.”
Monteith stated that this problem is pervasive across the student population and is not limited to one demographic. He said drugs and alcohol are not new problems for any high school but the pervasiveness and seriousness caught the board off guard, he said they need help because in his 25 years in education he has never encountered anything like this.
“Some specifics you might find of interest to Dryden High School; on average, every day, 30% approximately of the Dryden High School’s administration is spent dealing with drugs, alcohol or suspected drug use and incidents, that fluctuates based on time and day of the month and as Richard pointed out to me last week that’s specifically more difficult on what you might call ‘youth court day’ here in Dryden,” said Monteith. “There has been an increase in students found unconscious in this community due to consumption of a significant amount of alcohol and drugs near the school property or in the Lion’s Park area and in fact the school has had to call the ambulance more than ever in the past two to three years.”
Monteith said that the high school is a microcosm for the community at large and that these problems exist in the area.
“We’re not talking about cannabis, we’re talking about increased reported incidents of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, an anti-depression drugged called Xanax or a combination of all these things together, in fact one of the great concerns we have is that the mixture of these chemicals is so concerning that the impact and the potency is unpredictable,” said Monteith. “So what happens is the volatility and the behavior is so unpredictable that my staff, who are not trained to deal with this kind of situation, these are teachers, these are academics, this is what they are dealing with.”
At the high school it has been observed to be adults who are selling these drugs to high school students whether it be in the halls or outside where drug traffickers can drive up, sell their drugs, and drive away.
The following day Dryden High School Administration, with members of Board Senior Administration on site, initiated a ‘Hold and Secure’ at the school. A hold and secure means that all exterior doors and classroom doors are locked, and students and staff remain in classrooms (not in the hallways and common areas) with most classroom activities continuing to occur. The board says the move is part of an ongoing strategy to address safety concerns around illegal substances in the school.
The Dryden Police Service was also on site during the hold and secure. The following day Chief Doug Palson offered his insight on the situation at the school.
“I’d like to commend the school administration for doing what is necessary to create and maintain a healthy learning environment. We at the Dryden Police are committed to working with the school and all our community partners on community safety and well-being,” said Palson. “Drugs and alcohol have no place in the school environment and we support the leadership of the high school with their crack down on the problem. Unfortunately the original message, in my opinion, could lead some to think that the school is dysfunctional and possibly unsafe, I certainly don’t feel that way and I feel the community should be proud of the Dryden High School and the hard work that is done by the staff. And just sort of on a side note, it should be noted that we at the police in Dryden have no evidence to suggest that there is methamphetamine in the school and I’d certainly refrain from using terms such as crisis or epidemic.”