Since we, as parents, invest so much in private yeshiva high school education for our children, we might think that these academically sound, rigorously moral institutions will serve as protection for our teens from the immense pull of alcohol and drug use.
However, as we have learned in recent months, even in our world-class dual-curriculum schools with an intense focus on midot tovot there has been a spate of disturbing incidents involving students and the abuse of alcohol and drugs, with accompanying inappropriate behavior. Students have been suspended and expelled for possession, abuse and even dealing. They have been disciplined for putting themselves and, in some cases, others, at risk.
“How can this be?” we ask ourselves. This is not the world we have sought to construct for our children. We generally hope our children have learned to make healthy choices, both in their friendships and what they may choose to engage in with their classmates. We don’t want our children to be anywhere near cigarettes or vapes, liquor or marijuana, but as they grow up, we know we can’t ever really control where they go or what they come into contact with.
We can no longer assume that the children with whom they have grown up, even if we know their parents, will make responsible choices as well. We know that experimentation with alcohol, smoking and vaping are gateways to other, more risky activities.
Armed with this knowledge, we must work to arm our children with the skills to protect themselves. We must open our hearts to converse with them, honestly, about our hopes and fears for them. We need to explain the outcomes of lives spent pursuing illicit drug use, and the incredible risks and life-shortening consequences of too much alcohol or smoking. We must also mention the terror we have of them or their friends, God forbid, getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
We applaud Ma’ayanot and TABC for coming together to bring this issue to the forefront and for their efforts in leading the community on this issue. We are featuring our coverage of last week’s drug awareness event here and on our front page.
We cannot stand by and watch, frozen and motionless, while our children’s classmates get suspended or expelled and not explain to our children what they can do to protect themselves.
We must tell them what we expect of them, and give them every resource we have to make sure they are protected from harm. However, we also must show them that the burden of responsibility for themselves is, ultimately, in their own hands.