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Maryvale to mandate drug forums for parents

The Maryvale School District is on track to become the latest to require parents to attend drug and alcohol trend forums.

During its meeting Monday night, the Board of Education approved mandatory parent meetings to begin next academic year.

Parents of students in sixth to 12th grades will be required to attend the forums or their children will be unable to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sporting events, dances and clubs. In consideration of families with more than one child, attendance would cover parents for four years.

High School Assistant Principal Peter Frank told the board that the idea originated when district representatives attended the Kids Escaping Drugs Summit in the fall. Summit presenters suggested that districts create proactive programs to educate and involve parents.

Frank said the forums will discuss current drug trends, the effect of alcohol and other drugs on the developing brain and signs and symptoms of drug use and addiction.

Frank spearheaded the initiative and has been chairing a committee made up of middle and high school representatives because he believes involving parents is imperative to preventing drug abuse. Frank added that it’s important to keep parents abreast of emerging trends because today’s drugs are not the same as those that were popular when the parents were in middle and high school.

The benefits of the program include preventing alcohol and drug use and abuse, reducing crime and increasing the graduation rate, Frank said.

“We’re one of the few school districts in the area that aren’t doing this,” he said.

Maryvale hopes to partner with Cheektowaga Central to offer parents more forum dates. The meetings also would be videotaped, and those parents who cannot make the meetings could view the DVDs.

This was important to several board members who didn’t want to see students punished if parents could not attend because of medical issues or schedules without flexibility.

The program comes at no cost to the district and would be provided by the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse and the Cheektowaga Police Department.

Board Vice President Patty Keller asked why the program had to be mandatory. “What if someone’s really against it?” she asked.

Frank responded that past experiences have shown that if a program is not mandatory, many parents won’t attend.

Also during the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Stephen Lunden outlined expenditures in the draft of the 2015-16 budget. He reported that as of Monday, the overall budget was about $39.6 million, up 3.32 percent from this year.

The board hopes to finalize and adopt the spending plan during its next meeting at 6 p.m. March 23 at the Samuel R. Bennett Building, 1050 Maryvale Drive, Cheektowaga.