This week, after months of discussion over why it hadn’t yet happened, we were happy to see that the Sag Harbor School District finally held it’s first community coalition meeting.
Some 16 community members showed up at Pierson High School to talk about the issues of drug and alcohol usage among students with input from Kym Laube of Human Understanding and Growth Seminars, Inc.
While the issue of substance abuse among the school-age population has been suspected and talked about in the past (it even prompted the district to bring in Suffolk County’s drug sniffing dogs shortly before the end of the school year), we feel this committee has the potential to make much greater progress on the issue and, because it’s coming from within the community and not being introduced from outside, the potential to do some real good.
Based not upon blame and suspicion, but the sharing of ideas and concerns, even after just one meeting, it seems clear the committee is in a position to really put the issue in context. The setting is one that invites discussion and creative solutions to a problem that, if recent surveys introduced at the meeting are to be believed, really does exist in Sag Harbor.
Drinking, it seems, is the banned substance of choice among Pierson students and what became clear from the meeting is that there is good reason why.
By virtue of its reputation, the East End is known as a place for good times. By the shore with plenty of surf, sand and share houses, summer in the Hamptons is advertised and promoted as the place to be seen and party like its 1999. Growing up in a place known for its recreational opportunities, über high end clientele and downright debauchery can only send messages to kids that this is, indeed, the promised land of excess and good times.
Resisting those messages is hard enough for adults, let alone impressionable teens.
Compounding this fact are the relatively limited number of recreational activities for kids out here, especially in the off season. The potential for boredom is high (no pun intended) and difficulties are posed by living in an area where teen-friendly events are far apart, parents are often working multiple jobs and not at home, and public transportation is practically non-existent.
Perhaps there’s no better illustration of both these factors than the drama which played out in the national media this week when basketball phenom Jason Kidd, who signed with the New York Knicks mere days ago, was arrested after crashing his Cadillac SUV into a tree in Water Mill in the early morning hours of Sunday. Kidd was charged with drunken driving and the SUV, totaled. According to reports, the accident happened while Kidd was driving home from a club in East Hampton.
“A sports hero who millions of young athletes admire wrecks his car after a night of partying in the Hamptons.” And remember, this is a man who could easily afford to hire a limo and driver for the evening. If this headline doesn’t perfectly illustrate the mixed messages we’re sending to our youth on the East End, we can think of nothing else that does.
But the district’s new community coalition is in a unique position to bring it all into perspective. Unlike the party crowd which ebbs and flows with the seasons, the people in this coalition know the area, get the kids and recognize the connections. They have an opportunity to be proactive and raise issues that have never before been addressed or perhaps even considered here on the East End when it comes to teens and substance abuse.
It’s about time we start dealing with it — and now we have a way to do something about it. The next community coalition is scheduled for Monday, August 21 at 5:30 p.m. We hope to see you there. And bring your teenagers.