When the number of athletes violating the alcohol policy at Shawnee Mission East High School spiked at 60 last year, Principal Karl Krauwitz knew he had to do something about it. “Most of these issues are happening on the weekend, outside of school. Kids get caught, get a ‘minor in possession’ citation or violate the law, and we get notification from the courts and the police,” he said. In the past, Krauwitz said, students often got away with out-of-school alcohol violations, because the courts and police did not communicate as well as they do now about such cases.
The Blue Valley and Olathe school districts share Krauwitz’s concern and have been keeping up their own drug and alcohol education programs.
Krauwitz’s remedy for the Shawnee Mission East increase in violations is the online alcohol education program AlcoholEdu, which provides information for both students and parents about alcohol use. And several times a year, it quizzes students on what they have learned about how alcohol affects their behavior.
All freshmen at Shawnee Mission East will participate in the program this month, and Krauwitz said Shawnee Mission South is instituting it as well.
The program has high school and college versions: The University of Kansas and Kansas State University both use the college version of the website.
“They have to complete a number of activities, along with a survey,” said Krauwitz, who said he liked the parental participation element of AlcoholEdu.
Part of the problem is parent-hosted parties where alcohol is being served. In 2009, the state of Kansas made its social hosting law much more strict, with more severe penalties for parents who serve alcohol to minors.
“Anytime you get a parent not following the law, that’s not going to work. I’m pretty open and blunt with parents about their role in the process,” Krauwitz said. “If I find out you’ve been involved … I’m going to do anything in my power to expose you. It’s ludicrous, they should part of the solution, not part of problem.”
The Shawnee Mission School District’s policy says that if a student is caught violating the drug and alcohol policy, he or she receives a warning and must provide 20 hours of community service. If the first violation happens during the season for a student athlete, the student is benched for the rest of the season.
If caught a second time, the student is banned from all school activities — sports and otherwise — for a full year. When a student is not involved with any school activities, the district does not get involved with the case.
All the Blue Valley high schools use AlcoholEdu, said Mark Schmidt, executive director of student services for Blue Valley. The district’s middle schools use a program called Project Alert, a set of lessons taught during school hours with interactive videos.
Schmidt said both programs are part of a curriculum that teaches students how to make healthier life choices. He also cited the Regional Prevention Center’s “Wrong of Passage” video series and its related activities as having a positive effect on students. The district’s student well-being website has an information section for parents about how to handle a substance abuse problem with their children.
Olathe Assistant Superintendent Erin Dugan said she found to be very effective panel discussions her district has had in which the local police and the district attorney talk about the consequences of alcohol offenses on college applications and a student’s legal record.
The Olathe schools also have student-led clubs that post messages around the schools promoting better choices and denouncing alcohol use. These students are “our best messengers, using peer pressure to our advantage,” Dugan said.
According to surveys conducted by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Addiction and Prevention Services, 51.5 percent of students in Johnson County reported in 2002 that they had drunk alcohol before. By 2012, that number had dropped to 38.81 percent.
“You have to intervene — whether it’s a program, teaching or a combination, you’ve got to be willing to do something about it,” Krauwitz said. “You’ve got to be proactive about it right now.”