Following recent allegations of students attending the home basketball game against Loyola while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the editorial board agreed that the issue of substance use on campus and at school-related events should be addressed. It is common knowledge that drugs and alcohol are a presence on almost every high school campus. However, this does not mean that we should allow substances to negatively impact our school environment.
When students come to class high, leave campus during the school day to do drugs and drink alcohol, or show up at sporting events or school trips under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they disrespect the time and effort that teachers and administrators dedicate toward providing them with a top-notch education and preparing them to enter prestigious colleges. Parents send their students to Harvard-Westlake with the expectation that they will take their educations seriously. When these students are intoxicated in class, their learning is hindered, and the tuition their parents pay is wasted.
The editorial board concurred that the consequences outlined above are a result of drug and alcohol use on campus, but we found ourselves divided over whether substance use affects others who do not participate in it. While nine editorial board members felt that intoxicated students are distracting and may hinder the learning of others in their classes, 10 believe that students who show up to class drunk or high are only doing damage to themselves and that the negative repercussions associated with their actions affect only them.
We were not alone in our division. In a Chronicle poll of 474 upper school students, 37 percent agreed that substance use negatively impacts the school learning environment, while 63 percent disagreed.
We also found we were divided on whether the administration adequately and consistently enforces the student handbook’s language on drugs, alcohol and smoking. Fifteen members of the editorial board believe that the administration is not consistently enforcing the rules when students leave during the day and return to class high or drunk. On the other hand, four members of the editorial board believe that substance use on campus is not a major issue and that the administration is appropriately enforcing the rules because they punish students when they have sufficient reason and evidence to do so.
Clearly, the issue of drug and alcohol use elicited many different opinions from the editorial board. However, the unifying principle of our discussion was the belief that substance use has a negative effect on the school and its reputation. In order for Harvard-Westlake to be a “community united by the joyful pursuit of excellence,” as the mission statement declares, students need to take education seriously and follow the rules, and the administration must take all necessary action to remove drugs and alcohol from campus. The belief that the responsibility of combating these negative effects falls upon students, the administration or a combination of both is a matter of opinion that differs from person to person. Students, parents and administrators must determine where they stand on this issue and what the best path to a resolution is.