Today the New Hampshire Senate voted for SB369-FN AN ACT requiring public schools to include drug and alcohol education as part of their health education curriculum. This bill requires public schools to provide, as part of the school’s health education curriculum, age appropriate drug and alcohol education to pupils in kindergarten through grade 12.
I doubt you can find a parent who isn’t concerned about how this epidemic is impacting families across New Hampshire but is mandating drug and alcohol education for children as young as five years old an appropriate response?
Let’s start by addressing state legislators who are supposed to pride themselves on local control. Since we are a local control state, how can elected Senators support eroding local control in this way? I already heard from one local school board member who was opposed to this legislation.
During the Senate and House (joint) hearing Tuesday, no one asked to see what a drug and alcohol program looks like for five year old children. Children who are still learning to read, watching cartoons and playing with dolls.
This legislation is being fast-tracked and you can listen to Rich Girard talk about this on his local radio station here: http://www.girardatlarge.com/2016/01/health-curriculum-mandates/ (3:30)
The Bill calls for using “evidence based” prevention programs, but if you listen to Sid Glassner , (3rd segment) who has 56 years as a professional educator address this idea of “evidence based programs” aimed at young children, even he is skeptical of the effectiveness.
Often times, the programs aimed at older children do not have a track record of success at curbing the problems they are trying to resolve. This is from a report that PBS ran on the longitudinal study on the D.A.R.E. program:
No significant differences were observed between intervention and comparison schools with respect to cigarette, alcohol, or marijuana use during the 7th grade, approximately one year after completion of the program, or over the full five-year measurement interval.
As a researcher, I remember years ago when parents were complaining that the D.A.R.E. program was backfiring and creating curiosity among their children. In other words, D.A.R.E. was supposed to help children just say NO to drugs and alcohol, but parents were reporting that it was causing their kids to become curious:
Parris said she had received several calls from parents. “What about the 85 or 90 percent who don’t know anything about drugs yet? Sometimes we’re robbing the kids of their innocence,” she said.
Both Parris and Connie Jones, also a school board member, complained at the meeting and in recent interviews that DARE might spark interest in drug use rather than deter it.
In this news report from 20/20, they reported on a “death ed” program used in an effort to help students cope with death. Instead you can see in the report, students began considering suicide. With all of the focus on death, and taking kids to morgues to view dead bodies, the students themselves began considering their own death and even suicide.
I recall my daughter in fourth grade coming home in tears after a video presentation on bullying. She was upset by the video her highly qualified school counselor showed her class. The video showed children hitting and beating each other up but according to my daughter who was in tears, this is not how kids treated each other in her school.
The most damaging and revealing statement came next when she said the boys in her class were laughing, high fiving each other and talking about what how this was “great idea.” In other words, the school counselor, in her efforts to curb bullying, just taught the kids how to bully each other and some of the boys were already planning on trying it out.
When my son was in fifth grade and I was notified about the D.A.R.E. program, I asked to see the materials they would be using. When I watched the video they’d be showing all of the fifth grade students, I noticed the cartoon portrayed a dad passed out on the couch from drinking alcohol. When I shared my concerns with the D.A.R.E. officer that the cartoon could be misleading to children since it didn’t clarify between a dad drinking a beer and falling asleep on the couch and a dad who had a legitimate drinking problem, he agreed with me. He admitted the video was bad and needed to be updated in some way. It remained in use during that presentation and others that followed.
The recent heroin presentation given in Manchester recently had me concerned about the references to fentynal. Would that presentation teach some curious children and teens to search the internet for information on how to make it?
Manchester administrators caught a lot of heat from parents who didn’t know their children would be exposed to this kind of information. Some parents want to find ways to help their children make good choices but they need to be aware that some of these programs used in the school can actually do the opposite.
Which leads me back to SB369. The joint session on Tuesday included no public testimony from parents whose young children will now be exposed to this drug and alcohol problem. No where was there a provision to included informed written consent from parents either. Like me, I suspect most parents didn’t know this Bill would have limited input from the public and would be rushed through without thoughtful debate.
Today the full Senate voted to pass SB369-FN. Tomorrow the House Education Committee will vote in an Executive Session which means there will be no public testimony and then the House will most likely vote on it next week.
The drug crisis certainly deserves a great deal of attention in New Hampshire but this kind of legislation deserves a thoughtful debate. That’s exactly what did NOT happen this week and parents need to know.