How many students are intoxicated when they come to high school dances?
Clearly, it depends on who you ask.
Top administrators at Lawrence High School and Free State High School say the number is low. At a typical Free State dance, one intoxicated student might be caught, Mike Hill, an assistant principal at the school told the Journal-World. Lawrence High Principal Steve Nilhas said the number at his school might be more like three or four.
According to some students, however, the administrators must be in denial.
"It's seriously at least half," said one student who attended Free State's Firestarter Dance on Aug. 27. "Not everybody is really bad, but at least half are intoxicated."
Another student at the dance said the proportion was more like two-thirds, and a third student reported a drunken student vomiting in a trash can while others had to cling to one another to remain standing. The situation at the recent Free State dance has raised a number of concerns among students and parents and drawn interesting reactions from others.
Comments by some students and one parent interviewed by the Journal-World seem somewhat accepting of the situation.
"Many sophomores came home with stories about alcohol and drugs and inappropriate behavior and so parents are sort of up in arms : defending their children," said the Free State student body president.
Well, good for the parents who don't want their adolescent children exposed to drunken people and behavior at school events. More power to them.
Another student and a parent interviewed for the story seemed to acknowledge there was a problem but didn't see a way to address it, at least fully.
"I think it's so hard to stop, it should be more about getting the level of it down to a calmer level," said one student.
So much for zero tolerance. His statement may be realistic, but it doesn't set a very high standard. It also seems to acknowledge that the current level of the problem is anything but "calm."
The parent of a Free State student seemed to have sympathy for school administrators. "It's easy to point out the problem," he said. "What's the solution?"
School administrators and the district superintendent have some ideas, including heightened security and possible Breathalyzer testing to curb drinking at school events. Although students seem to think administrators are vastly underestimating intoxication at school events, officials say they take the situation very seriously.
Schools may not be able to eradicate student drinking, but to look the other way or fail to enforce policies against drunken students at school events sends the message that such behavior is acceptable or at least without consequences.
Goodness knows that in today's culture, students get that message often enough. If schools and parents aren't willing to challenge that viewpoint and stand up for students who complain about alcohol use at school events, who will?
School board members should not accept the assessment of senior school officials that the situation isn't severe. Either school administrators are unwilling to attack the problem or are afraid to acknowledge how serious it is. It should be stopped now.