Students today gave mixed reviews to a recommendation of the Common Council task force on drug abuse that high schools be staffed with at least one full-time prevention specialist or counselor.
To Welela Tereffe, a sophomore at City Honors High School, the idea is "not only ineffective and unnecessarily expensive but hypocritical."
But to Julie Doherty, who will be Traditional High School's senior Student Council president next year, such a staff member would be helpful to troubled youngsters "too embarrassed" to go to their parents.
The recommendation was one of many issued by the task force last week in a preliminary report. Today's hearing at City Hall was the first of eight planned so the 54-member panel can get opinions from the community.
Welela said high school students would not turn to a drug specialist because the person would be in a school setting and would not be trusted.
The idea, she said, is "almost insulting" because of the school system's "desperate need" for basic guidance counselors who are each responsible for about 400 students now.
On the other hand, Julie said students would see the specialist "as someone to turn to. If there was someone to talk to, they would go there."
Another task force recommendation calls for greater emphasis on teaching drug and alcohol dangers in the early Council drug task force proposals
grades, particularly kindergarten through Grade 3.
Welela called that "an excellent idea" because such an effort would reach youngsters "when their minds are most open" to advice from adults. Later, she said, children stop listening to parents and other adults, and advice about the dangers drugs and alcohol will have little effect if peers are saying something else.
Tim Hennigan, a senior at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, said children in the early grades are at an impressionable age and can receive the message "that drugs are bad." But, he said, it is too early for an expensive program.
Several students said there was little or no noticeable drug use in their schools. But Sean McGhee, a junior at Riverside High School, said some students get attracted to drug dealing as a quick way to make money and an easier way than through education.
"They look up to drug dealers with all the gold. They are looking for the fast dollar . . . Kids aren't only users. They are the dealers," Sean said.
Jared Ingersoll of Bennett High School told the panel the basic needs for an anti-drug program are parental involvement, funding and relevancy. He particularly singled out parental indifference as a culprit.
Generally, the recommendations toughen anti-drug laws and procedures, including higher penalties for possession and sale of narcotics in a gatehouse setting and the ability of authorities to consider the element of danger to the community in assessing controls on a defendant prior to trial.
Welela told the task force that any anti-drug program will be in vain unless accompanied by concrete alternatives, including employment services and improved schools with more guidance counselors and increased extracurricular activities.
Other hearings will be:
Monday at the South Buffalo Community Center, 2219 South Park Ave.
June 7 at the Polish Community Center, 1081 Broadway.
June 12 at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court.
June 14 at the Masten CAO Center, 735 Humboldt Parkway.
June 19 at the Puerto Rican Chicano Community Center, 254 Virginia St.;
June 22 at the Kensington-Bailey Community Center, 2969 Bailey Ave.
June 26 in the Council Chambers, City Hall.
All are at 6 p.m., except the Masten CAO meeting which is at 7 p.m.