LETTER: Working to improve drug education and prevention at Barlow

To the Editor:

Recent news has made it apparent that there are problems with vaping, drugs, and drinking and driving at Barlow. The Easton-Redding Community Care Coalition, which is headed by Barlow’s health education administrator and the school psychologist, was revived last spring and expanded to include participants from our towns’ middle schools, law enforcement, town officials, student body, and other members of the community.

Since March, the parent committee of the ERCCC has identified several topics that pertain to the physical and emotional well-being of our teens, but has decided to focus first on substance abuse because it represents the most imminent threat to their safety.

Consequently, the parent committee has surveyed nearly two dozen area high schools and consulted with HVCASA to identify shortcomings in our schools’ approach to substance abuse education and prevention. We’ve also been raising awareness in the community in concert with the high school’s administration, by conducting an educational seminar for parents of teen drivers, participating in our schools’ open houses, and speaking up at Board of Education meetings.

Our concern stems from the fact that Connecticut ranks fourth nationwide in the number of children offered, sold, or given illegal drugs on school property, and the fact that the first fatal fentanyl overdose in Connecticut was a suburban 14-year-old girl.

To be sure, since 2011, the number of drug-related police interactions per year in Easton and Redding has increased roughly 39%.

Unfortunately, while we have repeatedly tried to engage the Region 9 Board of Education in a conversation about substance issues, to date all of our efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Consequently, we are putting out a call to all parents in Easton and Redding to get together to help drive change by reminding the board members that the voters put them on that board to represent us.

For more info, visit eastonreddingccc.com.

ERCCC Parent Committee members

Joanne Kaoud Simpson

Eva Ortiz

Chris Siedman

Nancy Gregoire

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