Drug use doubles between freshman, junior years

Healthy Kids Survey shows jump to 29 percent in two years

Neha Kaul and Athena Georgopoulos

Drug use among Cal High students is on the rise.

Results from the state’s 2014-15 Healthy Kids Survey show that alcohol and drug use for Cal students nearly doubled between freshman and junior years.

Freshmen who participated in the survey revealed that 15 percent had experimented with drugs and alcohol, compared to 29 percent of juniors who responded to the survey.

“In freshman year, it wasn’t common a lot,” said senior Haripriya Gopal. “More people hear about it now.”

A poll conducted by The Californian also shows an increase of students who have witnessed drug use on campus between freshmen and junior years.

Of the 100 kids polled, 13 of 25 freshmen reported witnessing drug use on campus, compared to 18 of 25 juniors. Of the 25 seniors polled, 21 said they have seen students do drugs on campus.

Overall, 71 of the 100 students polled have witnessed drug use at Cal.

“I’ve seen someone smoking pot in the bathroom,” senior Samara Sorce said. “As soon as she saw me she went in the stall, closed the door, and just continued to smoke.”

Sophomore Arman Katiby and junior Mary Mello said they generally see students using e-cigarettes and vaping.

Gopal said students will take drugs regardless of their effects and school rules because it’s just how society is now.

“Drugs are popular among teens,” said junior Cameron McAnulty.

Administrators believe differently. Assistant Principal Crystal Lopez said drugs are not a natural part of high school and that most students don’t take part in it.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” said junior Kalen Milburn.

But some students agree with Lopez.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories but I’ve never really seen it myself,” said freshman Cherag Keswani.

Freshmen are the only class required to take a health class, which includes topics of drugs use.  Health teacher Joe Sussman did not think his class has a huge impact when it comes to his students’ decisions. He said it comes down to the person and their surroundings.

“I think it’s more about how freshmen are very new and happy when they come to campus after finishing middle school, compared to juniors who have their cliques and other stress, ” said sociology teacher Eghosa Obaiza.

Although tobacco, alcohol and marijuana still seem to be the most popular illegal substances among teens, prescription pills have grown in popularity over the years.

In fact, numerous students said two underclassmen were recently expelled for dealing muscle relaxers toward the end of the first semester.

When asked about a supposed drug sweep for prescription pills around finals week, administrators had no comment.

“There’s not a single month where I haven’t had a case involving a student having possession of marijuana at school,” Dave Williams, the youth resource officer for the San Ramon Police Department, told the San Jose Mercury News in a March 2014 article.

Officer Jeff Kim, Cal’s school resource officer, briefly explained some of the procedures Cal follows involving drugs.

Administrators need reasonable suspicion, for example an anonymous tip, to suspect drug use. With reasonable grounds to believe a student is taking part in drug use or is in possession of drugs, additional steps, such as searching or bringing him or her into the office, can be taken.

The consequences of drug possession on school grounds is twofold both criminally and administratively.

Milburn and McAnulty said they think that searching students’ lockers and bags are invasions of privacy, despite the rights of school officials to oversee student searches, given by courts more than a decade ago. The Fourth Amendment right preventing unreasonable searches does not apply in school settings.

In the Mercury News article, Williams said the attitude toward marijuana has become so casual.

Sussman said he thinks this could be due to the legalization of marijuana in other states, making it more normal.

Obaiza also said the current attitude toward drugs is nonchalant, which is way different from when she was growing up. She explained that there are two types of kids in high school.

“There are kids who want to be socially accepted, and they feel like drugs are a way in,” she said. “Then, there are kids who need to deal with issues and find out who they are.”

Mello thinks another reason for high school drug use is curiosity.

“I think high school is a period of experimentation, so [drug use] happens,” Mello said.

Kim agrees with Mello.

“While there is an absolute zero tolerance rule toward drug possession or use at school, I believe some of the reasons for drug use are teenage experimentation and more damaging reasons such as mental health issues,” Kim said.

Sophomore Nicole Tan explained that cigarettes are portrayed in a cool and vintage way on Tumblr, with photography and gifs.

“There’ll be a lot of pictures of celebrities and pretty models using drugs,” Tan said. “They obviously attract a lot of teens and other users.”

Health teacher Joe Sussman ultimately believes it all comes down to the kids.

“I don’t have much impact on kids,” he said. “Their parents do, their friends do, and you do. You make your own choices.”