Huybrechts: School discourages experimentation

Dear Chronicle Editors:

I support the sentiment expressed in the November Chronicle editorial, “Leave Drugs At Home,” and I hope that the author’s opinion is shared by all Harvard-Westlake students. Bringing drugs on campus or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at school offends those of us who consider our school a safe haven, a sanctuary and a home away from home.  

While I agree with the essence of the author’s argument, I disagree with one idea he/she posits: that it’s somehow okay (perhaps even expected) for students—our students—to experiment with drugs during their high school years.  I, too, follow the news and read the statistics and know that some high school students “try drugs by the time they graduate,” but I don’t believe that “it’s fine to experiment, but not to do it here (at school).”  And I disagree with the statement that “What you do outside of school is not our business.”  We teachers, deans, and coaches care about our students, so if they’re “experimenting”—even out of school—it’s almost certainly going to become our business.

There is an extensive body of scientific research that supports the thesis that illegal drug use and alcohol abuse affect developing teenage brains in very negative ways.  For that reason—and I emphasized this in my remarks in class meetings a month ago—if we learn that students are harming themselves by abusing drugs or alcohol—even if it’s at weekend parties—we will intervene and insist that they get counseling or other help. If students violate school rules prohibiting drug or alcohol use on campus, it’s likely that they’ll have to leave our community.

We care about our students’ developing brains, and we care about the environment we’ve cultivated and are trying to maintain at this school—a culture that values scholarship and open discourse, and that emphasizes the importance of clear thinking and critical analysis. It’s difficult to think straight—much less clearly and critically—if you’re under the influence of some mind-altering substance, and that is why we teachers, deans and coaches are concerned about drug and alcohol abuse,  whether it takes place on or off—campus.  

— Dr. Jeanne Huybrechts, Head of School

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