• Another Wake-Up Call •
The current debate about the extent of controlled substance use, whether illegal, or prescription, drugs, or alcohol, among students at Malibu High School, is another example of the old proverb that no matter how things change, they remain the same. The drug concerns of 2009 existed in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, according to parents who had children in local schools during those years, myself included.
One of the most focused of community efforts addressing the complex issue of young people and drug use followed the mid-1970s death of a Malibu Park Junior High School student (Malibu High did not exist then) who walked into the surf off Zuma Beach while high on Quaaludes, the drug of choice for the junior high crowd in the ’70s and ’80s, and drowned. ’Ludes were relatively inexpensive, often sold individually on campus or shared for free, and, along with so-called uppers and downers in a rainbow pharmaecopia, were in line with Malibu’s economic demographics at the time—middle class families that bought their homes in Malibu Park and on Point Dume for about $40,000 to $50,000.
The youth’s death led to the creation of a project that had all the signs of becoming an excellent means to help young people deal with the complexity of adolescent angst, peer pressure, family and school issues, and all the factors that go into making the junior high years so difficult for even the most level-headed student. The parents who volunteered for this ambitious effort were an exceptional group of residents who poured their hearts into the project, and for about two or so years, the community rallied behind it.
Then the memory of the lone youth lost to the waves dimmed, and people started to sound like some of the current parents sound. “We really don’t have a problem.” “It’s just one or two kids, not mine.” “Stop criticizing our school.” The project ultimately fell by the wayside.
The current discussion about drug use has brought some important local concerns out into the open. Although I think the first line of defense against drug use is the family, anyone minimizing the importance of peer pressure doesn’t appreciate the adolescent longing to fit in and have friends, even if those “friends” have only their own interests (and possibly, wallets) at heart.
The current acrimonious exchange should give way to a willingness to listen and learn what is really going on. Parents concerned about drug use are not anti-Malibu High. Those who want to sweep the issue under the rug are the real adversaries of a healthy campus where the emphasis is on learning because students think it’s cooler to get ready for life, than it is to risk it. Parents who want to squelch open discussion of drug issues do a disservice to all children, most especially their own.