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Students bringing booze to school

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by Michele Catahay

First there were major concerns about violence on campus.  Numerous incidents made headlines in recent months.  But there's a growing trend at one local high school that has officials concerned.  Students are coming to school with booze, getting intoxicated while on campus and hiding the alcohol they're sneaking in.

"I'm seeing more of alcohol," said George Washington High School Assistant Principal for Discipline Gaylene Cruz.  "It is becoming the trend other than fights, but I think alcoholism is a major issue."

While there have been fewer fights this school year, apparently some students are boozing it up - bringing alcohol on campus.  Gaylene Cruz says today, a 14-year-old girl was found intoxicated after consuming alcohol, more specifically vodka.  The teen was transported to the hospital for observation.

While GW currently has a see-through mesh bag policy, students are getting creative.  "For instance," continued Cruz, "[in] water bottles, instead of water, it's vodka.  The kids are getting smart now because they're putting it in an Arizona Iced Tea cans. They're also mixing it with orange juice or Gatorade, and that's where we're finding them."

Random searches are conducted almost daily, but Cruz admits the issue has gotten out of hand because of the extents students are going to disguise the alcohol.  It doesn't help that GW already lacks enough school aides to roam the campus.  The high school currently has 14 school aides and only seven of them are situated out in the hallways.  Cruz says the problem has gotten so bad that she sees at least one or two students a week coming into her office intoxicated.

"Even if they're not under the influence during our random searches, we do find them in possession. We find these empty bottles. We've also seen them in trash cans and so forth and we do an immediate search again to make sure no student is intoxicated or under the influence," she explained.

While these students may end up being suspended, Cruz says the school also looks to agencies and organizations such as Sanctuary, Inafa Maolek, and the Department of Youth Affairs to help provide intervention.  "One of the things we want to do is to provide intervention at all times. Suspension isn't always the answer. We try to provide help to the student, but at the same time we want the parents to also take some responsibility and know they need to pay attention to the children," said Cruz.  "They need to know what they're doing."

And it's not just alcohol being found on campus, but searches have resulted in the discovery of blades and drug paraphernalia, too.  "Cigarettes, tobacco products, we have weapons such as blades. The pins, other types of blades, homemade shanks that they call them," Cruz noted.

Officials are hoping parents will become more involved in knowing what their children are doing and who they are hanging out with to help combat the growing problem.

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