Some questions about the implementation of D.A.R.E. in Northfield

Darelogo D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) “… is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.”

In City Administrator Al Roder’s weekly memo for Dec. 17-21:

On 12-14-2007 Northfield Police Department interviewed police officers that had expressed an interest of becoming DARE instructors. Northfield Schools and Northfield Police Department Captains conducted the interviews. Northfield Police Department Officers Blaine Anderson and Paul Haider were selected. The officers will attend state sponsored training from January 7 until January 18, 2008. Northfield Police Department officers will run the first ever DARE program in the Northfield school district starting in February 2008. This program has been put together with cooperation from Northfield Schools and Northfield Police Department.

In the Feb. 15 Nfld News, Megan Proft has an article titled DARE comes to Sibley School. And in the Feb. 20 Nfld News editorial titled DARE in schools a must for Northfield:

Numerous studies have been done on the program since its inception in 1983 in urban Los Angeles. The most well-known of these conclude two things: that DARE doesn’t do much to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol, and that it helps form a bond between students and law enforcement. But eight months after the city was rocked by the news of possible drug use problems, Northfield can scarcely afford to do nothing.

I take issue with the last sentence of the editorial.

“…possible drug use problems”? I say our town definitely has drug abuse problems.

“…afford to do nothing”? Much has been done since the heroin story broke last summer.

But my bigger questions are:

  1. Given the questions about the effectiveness of DARE (see the section in the Wikipedia entry on DARE re: the critical view), should our policy makers (the Northfield School Board and the Northfield City Council) be more involved in deciding whether the time is right for DARE here in Northfield? I can find nothing in the council or school board minutes where the issue has been discussed.
  2. Should the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use, the HCI, the Union of Youth, and the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition be involved in determining whether DARE is right for Northfield?

My uninformed answer to both questions is ‘yes.’ But I’m open to being influenced.


  1. Jane Moline said:

    It is interesting that you posted this on February 26 (2008) and no one has yet commented–does this mean the Locally Grown pundits think this is “no news?”

    I agree with you that Northfield has not sat and done nothing, but we have been somewhat lax in our follow-through. I think there are 2 things at work:

    1. Many in Northfield do not believe we have a drug problem or believe it is just certain “bad” kids and doesn’t affect them.

    2. We have not struck at the base of this disease–where kids are beginning to venture into drug use, which is at drinking parties that are all over. (I am saying there is a big alchohol problem in Northfield that we are not addressing, even though some of our children have died and others gone on to serious drug problems.)

    I agree with the comment about the editorial–this is not a “possible drug use problem” it is A SERIOUS DRUG USE PROBLEM. The Northfield News can’t seem to decide if they are with us or against us–according to the News, DARE is a “must” for Northfield schools but doesn’t do much to keep kids away from drugs, which I guess is OK with the News since drugs are only a “possible” problem.

    DARE does not work for its stated purpose–educating kids about drugs so that they will not use drugs. It is nice that the police have good relationships with everyone in the community, including the kids, but this program is not the answer.

    I was quite surprised that the paper would write an effusive article about this program when it is well documented and well studied–it doesn’t work. I think it is harmless and a good way to give teachers a break so they can catch up on prep time or at least not have to prep for teaching this topic. (Although I bet most of the teachers need to be in the room during the DARE presentation, negating any positive there.)

    We really need to come up with ways of making our community healthy for recovering addicts–they need jobs and focus that keeps them away from former friends and habits.

    March 1, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, I think since DARE doesn’t cost the district anything, no one much cares if it’s effective or not as long as it’s ‘harmless,’ as you say.

    I’d like to see the candidates for police chief asked about DARE.

    March 4, 2008
  3. Anne Bretts said:

    The problem is that DARE isn’t harmless if parents believe the school is doing something to stop drugs. I think the program should be renamed to reflect building relationships with police but without the drug component.
    This is like teaching abstinence only and thinking kids won’t have sex. These things all make the parents feel better but don’t address the really uncomfortable things parents have to do themselves to help kids deal with drugs and sex. It’s lousy to have to be a kiljoy and make your kids have curfews, have limits on their friends and their activities and have limits on access to prescription drugs. It’s not always fun to be a parent, but it’s important.
    Sure there need to be programs for kids, but there also needs to be ‘peer pressure’ by parents demanding that their friends act like grown-ups and quit worrying about being cool. We all want to believe our kids are the smartest, the wisest and that we’ve taught them to make good decisions. That’s the fallacy of DARE, that you can teach a 16-year-old to avoid drugs. Teen brains aren’t adult brains and really smart kids make lousy decisions. They need parents saying no and making good decisions for them until they are really ready to do it on their own.
    Maybe parents should have to go through DARE when their kids are in middle school so the cops can tell them all the tricks their kids are going to use on them over the next few years.

    March 4, 2008
  4. Griff said:

    “Jane, I think since DARE doesn’t cost the district anything, no one much cares if it’s effective or not as long as it’s ‘harmless,’ as you say.”

    This is the logic that the Northfield News used as well, and it seems like a very poor way to decide whether or not to expose kids to propaganda like DARE. Is there anything unreasonable about asking a program to provide a benefit (as opposed to no effect at all)?

    Anne, I agree with your statement about drug-abstinence being unrealistic for teens, but I would go a bit further in my own concerns about DARE. It creates — not for everybody, but for some — a fundamental distrust between kids and teachers/police when all drugs are lumped together under a universal “bad” label (bothering only to distinguish between “gateway drugs” and the further drugs they’ll supposedly lead you to). High school kids actually believe that because they were lied to about alcohol and marijuana, that all the other things they were told were bad — LSD and cocaine, for example — must be equally nonharmful: if DARE lied about one thing, it must have lied about it all.

    So even if zero-effect is acceptable, what DARE provides is far, far worse.

    March 4, 2008
  5. kiffi summa said:

    Mini-Survey: At Norm Butler’s Politics and a Pint, last Sunday evening, the subject of the DARE program came up. Out of the six adults who expressed and opinion, 5 felt that it had been statistically proven to be NON effective;
    one person felt that if it benefitted even one child in a classroom that was enough.
    I share the feeling that a program that has been studied as much as this one has, and found to be ineffective, can deflect efforts to provide a more effective program.
    So what are the costs, dollars, time, wasted academic time etc, of this effort? Why do the schools/police want this if there are better programs?

    March 4, 2008
  6. John George said:

    Sean- You said,”… High school kids actually believe that because they were lied to about alcohol and marijuana, that all the other things they were told were bad — LSD and cocaine, for example — must be equally nonharmful: if DARE lied about one thing, it must have lied about it all.” “Equally non-harmful?!” Where have you been the last couple months? How many college students have died this winter from alcohol poisoning? I don’t think it is misinformation provided by DARE that has gotten kids off track. It is misinformation provided by people who actually believe that alcohol is “non-harmful!” I have some very strong opinions on this, and I think there are statistics to support them.

    Felicity, you have access to some of this information. What does it say?

    Griff, what was that thread you started last spring, about the wisdom of the city of Northfield providing a store to supply “gateway drugs?” I think you have something there.

    March 4, 2008
  7. John, abuse anything and it will hurt you. Surely you’d agree that cocaine is, for the vast majority of people, going to be far more harmful than alcohol.

    It would be great if nobody drank and nobody smoked pot, but as Anne said, it’s just not realistic.

    Distinctions need to be made. Marijuana/Alcohol shouldn’t be put on the same level as severe drugs, and kids shouldn’t be duped into believing that one necessarily leads them down a path toward another.

    March 4, 2008
  8. David Henson said:

    My understanding is the physically alcohol is more damaging to the body than cocaine or heroin but they are more addictive (although alcohol is also very addictive) which causes all kinds of problems.

    The schools should probably have a class every day of the week on the negative effects of drugs and alcohol to: counter the media’s glorification of using and recognize that math & reading skills never overcome an abuse problem.

    March 5, 2008
  9. John S. Thomas said:

    Oh my gosh, Wikipedia says that DARE is worthless, so it must be so… get serious.

    Right now, Northfield needs all the help it can get. If not this program, then suggest another?

    It is at least someone trying to make an effort, even if it is only a finger plugging the leak.

    If you think the program is ineffective, lets get something else in here that is effective.

    March 5, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I assume your sarcastic remarks about Wikipedia were directed at me because I linked to their DARE entry.

    Why the put down? You can make your point without it. Remarks like that send a signal to all who are reading but not participating that they’re likely to get the same treatment if their opinion differs from yours.

    I linked to the Wikipedia entry in part because of the way they treat controversial issues like this, ie, “those who support it say x” and “those who criticize it say y”.

    March 5, 2008
  11. John George said:

    Sean- You said, “…abuse anything and it will hurt you.” This is all too true. For that matter, if one breathes too much oxygen, they can die from oxidosis. Drink too much water? It throws your electrolites off and, again, you can die. Actually, what needs to be addressed is not the substance, but the reason for the abuse. If a person is predisposed to not being able to resolve life’s conflicts, the pattern is to look for “relief” in something outside themselves. We are not willing to put up with a mere headache or sniffy nose without taking some pill. It is a pattern of life in most affluent societies.

    When a person runs into longer term conflicts, say a loss of a job, or, on the student level, flunking a class, or feeling they are an outcast from the other students, the natural reaction is to look for some pill to take to mask the pain. This is the addictive pattern that can develope. When we are dealing with chemicals that ascerbate this escape, rather than resolving the problem, we get into trouble. What is being taught in the public schools that compliments parental character teaching and reinforces parents’ values in their children? When I was growing up, if I got into trouble at school, then I was for sure going to be in trouble when I got home. I have three daughters that teach. The greatest challenge they face in the classroom is parents who will do anything to get their kids “off” rather than support the teachers in their discipline. Discipline?! Now, that is a rare commodity in this day and age. It is no wonder we have a whole generation of kids coming on who seem to have no concept of consequences and personal responsibility. That is just my opinion of what I observe, though.

    It could be that DARE is actually teaching the wrong level. Perhaps some of the parents out there should go through the course so they can reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. I think we are addressing a growing problem in our society that is not going to be overcome with education alone.

    March 5, 2008
  12. John (George), I’m not sure that discipline is exactly the solution, but otherwise I really agree with what you’ve said.

    Still, though, that doesn’t cover everything. Kids still need to know about the effects of drugs, and they need to learn them in a safe, honest environment. I think DARE is fundamentally bad in that respect, because it’s taught by police officers who are beholden to the law, not the truth.

    John (Thomas), you wrote:

    It is at least someone trying to make an effort

    I would again make the point that “something” is not necessarily better than “nothing.” I don’t know of anything better than DARE, but even if it were the least bad thing out there, that doesn’t mean we have to use it.

    March 5, 2008
  13. To Griff’s original questions 1 and 2: Yes and Yes. From the relatively little I know about DARE it does not seem to be particularly effective. I share the concerns of several of the folks commenting above that it may actually be counterproductive by giving parents the sense that the schools are “taking care of the problem,” when parents have a critically important role to play in bringing up kids less likely to abuse drugs. Policymakers and educated local stakeholders should be involved in this decision. I wish I knew of a more effective program I could recommend, but I don’t. Perhaps others do, and I welcome their suggestions.

    My two kids (16 and 19) got anti-drug-use education in health classes from grade school through high school here in Northfield, but my wife and I have always felt it is primarily our responsibility to model responsible chemical use and support our kids in making wise choices and resisting peer pressure. I have serious doubts that DARE can make any difference unless parents are engaged from birth on as partners with the schools in teaching about this issue.

    I also think we have an unhealthy obsession with abstinence concerning chemical use in this country, when the real issue, in my opinion is abuse. To focus obsessively on kids not using alcohol until they are 21, for example, seems unhelpful and almost certainly counterproductive. I am not suggesting that parents give a wink and a nod concerning drinking, or allow drinking parties in their homes, or anything of the sort. I am suggesting that discussing alcohol (and other drug) use openly and honestly is preferable to treating it as a taboo subject, and insisting that absolute abstinence under all circumstances is the only option.

    My brother struggled with chemical dependency for about 30 years, and it was a terrible thing for him and those who love him. It doesn’t matter if the chemical is alcohol, marijuana, meth, heroin, Oxycontin, or anything else. Chemical dependency is a major problem in Northfield, as it is in probably every other community in the US. The most important thing this community could do would be to openly admit that chemical dependency is a major problem among not only young adults, but the entire population.

    I caught a bit of a conversation on MPR’s Midmorning (host Kerri Miller and a father and son who have written memoirs, independently, about their hellish experiences with the son’s chemical dependency) which is germane to this conversation. Check it out at

    We can’t afford to look the other way and pretend the schools, the DARE program, or anyone else is going to “take care of this problem” for us.

    March 6, 2008
  14. Anne Bretts said:

    Great comments, Bruce.
    Chemical dependency, or any other kind of addiction, is such an intensely personal reaction to situations and substances that it is up to parents to be in tune to their kids and shape their message accordingly. You and your brother grew up in the same home and with the same school and circumstances, yet he struggles and you were able to stay healthy. All kids are “at risk” but some more than others, so Sean is right that scaring everybody just causes cynicism.
    When I wrote about education, principals would say that the students most at risk for chemical abuse are kids of people who are in denial about their own problems and so least able to be good models and mentors. So we can talk about what parents should do, but the ones who need the message aren’t listening or can’t hear it.
    This requires so much more than having a lesson in a classroom. It takes friends and relatives and neighbors willing to step up and step in to make sure all the kids they know have at least one adult they can trust to see them through to adulthood.
    That’s the real dare program, having every adult dare to make a difference in one kid’s life.

    March 6, 2008
  15. Julie Bixby said:

    I was the “one out of 6” (in Kiffi’s comment #5) who thought if DARE helped even one child it was worth the effort.
    When the subject came up the first things I heard people say were DARE is not effective. I asked why they thought so, where is that statistical information? How was it obtained? I would like to read it.

    My children went to school in Kenyon during their pre-teen years and experienced the DARE program. They would come home and talk to me
    about it. We often discussed the “drug” issues and the peer pressure kids face.
    I truly believe that if kids have a good self esteem they can handle peer pressure. However, many kids want to “try” different drugs. They just don’t want to get hooked. Do I think my kids have ever tried drugs? Yes. This does not mean that they think it is smart or that now as adults they have anything to do with it.

    I thought the program was good at the time my kids had it. I felt it helped me as a parent in my efforts to educate my children about drugs. (It wasn’t just because Mom and Dad said)
    I am sure the program can be improved. How? I am not sure. Anyone have any ideas?

    Sean, what are the “lies” that are told to kids through this program? Were you told these lies? Is it lumping all drugs together as to harmfulness? I am sincerely curious as to what you think.


    March 6, 2008
  16. Julie said:

    Sean, what are the “lies” that are told to kids through this program? Were you told these lies? Is it lumping all drugs together as to harmfulness?

    I went through DARE in fifth grade (yr. 2000) at Nerstrand Elementary. I wish I could remember more specifics, but the main thing I recall was the program being misleading about marijuana: that it leads you to more extreme drugs, that it’s more damaging to your health than cigarettes, and that it’s very chemically addictive.

    I am sure the program can be improved. How? I am not sure. Anyone have any ideas?

    I’m inclined to agree with Anne that the program is fundamentally flawed. I mean the name alone — Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education — suggests the idea of teaching kids drug-abstinence, not teaching them to experiment cautiously.

    March 6, 2008
  17. Curt Benson said:

    Sean, I know I’m asking a lot, but what would you include in a drug/alcohol awareness program? How would you teach it?

    BTW, Bruce, thanks for your link to the MPR show in your post #13. It was, well, horrifying.

    Also, I believe that both the middle and high school health classes were going to bring in speakers from the “Know the Truth” program this fall. I wonder if anyone heard how that went.

    March 6, 2008
  18. Sean, I know I’m asking a lot, but what would you include in a drug/alcohol awareness program? How would you teach it?

    Well I can’t say that I’ve given that much thought to it, but I guess I would envision a program that:

    • is taught (by a teacher, not a police officer) as part of a general health and wellness class
    • treats drugs the same way as food is treated. Not that they don’t have far more severe effects on the body, just that the way nutrition is presented (e.g., “consuming too much sodium over twenty years, will have effect {x} on your body”) I think could be well-applied to drugs (“smoking five cigarettes a day for twenty years will have {y} effect on your body”)
    • acknowledges that there is no one truth on drugs, and that there are different opinions (DARE-like views, as long as there’s some fact behind them, could be presented as one such opinion)
    • does not address the illegality of drugs. A lot of drugs are illegal, but so is stealing a car or holding up a bank. We don’t teach kids not to do those things in school; we shouldn’t be talking about legal aspects of drug use in the classroom.
    • is wholly separate from lessons about “peer pressure.” It’s great to teach kids to be confident and decisive, but it’s not great when it’s just a tool to resist drugs.
    March 6, 2008
  19. Anne Bretts said:

    I think there should be a program for parents of elementary school students — the parents who still come to teacher conferences. They should get information on using prescription drugs and alcohol carefully around their kids. They should be warned not to play up that cough medicine tastes like cherries or if they just take this medicine they will feel so much better. Children learn very quickly to ask for medicine when they have a tummy ache or vitamins because they look like dinosaurs or gummy worms. They wait for the good feeling when the medicine kicks in and soon know whether one pill is enough or two are needed.
    We teach them very early to associate drugs with feeling good, then abruptly tell them drugs are bad. They know better.
    Parents should keep all prescription drugs away from kids and count the pills. Same with alcohol. Many addicts are curious and start “experimenting” at 12 or 13. By the time parents talk to them it’s too late.
    Parents should stress the importance of eating right, having a regular routine and using natural methods (rest, fluids, etc.) before resorting to medicine.
    This isn’t about teaching drug awareness, or safe sex, this is teaching children how to be in touch with their feelings and their bodies and how to keep their lives in balance. Drugs, sex, money, cars, food, gambling, video games — anything that throws life out of balance can be a risk.

    March 6, 2008
  20. John S. Thomas said:


    My apologies in the delayed response. I have been ‘AFK’ for a few days dealing with work and school.

    The reference to Wikipedia was absolutely not directed at you. It was more of a reference to the fact that I truly dislike the fact that the whole world is moving toward Wiki-P as an “authoritative” source.

    I am still a very studious person, and believe that books and other references are much better than WP. WP is good for a quick lookup, but since I cannot cite it as a reference in any of my ongoing college work, I don’t rely on it. WP is only as good as those that post to it. Some information is good, some is bad, some is weak, some is wrong, some is biased. The only good thing is that it is all on one place. As long as you don’t use it as your single source of information, and choose to look deeper… problem is, some folks don’t. That is what I have a problem with.

    I just see so many discussions, and so many folks using it as the only reference, and it bugs me. I just lashed out on it, possibly unfairly. At a minimum, I choose to take WP with a grain of salt, and look at the references and dig deeper for more.

    Griff, again, it was not an attack on you. I am way past that. I am trying to keep my posts, and my actions as I would treat others in real life. I am trying to change, and treat those as I would want to be treated. As you may have noticed, I have been posting much less since the first of the year.

    I linked to the Wikipedia entry in part because of the way they treat controversial issues like this, ie, “those who support it say x” and “those who criticize it say y”.

    Griff, you are right. My post was quick, and flippant. However, it is the way I feel about Wikipedia. It was not meant as an attack, and not one directed towards you. I have made a conscious decision to not participate like that anymore, and I have left that perception in the past. I am done doing that. Being negative does no good. I choose to participate in a positive manner now.

    I need to take a bit more time with my posts, and explain/support my opinions better. I will strive to do better.

    In response to the discussion about DARE, I believe that ANY program is better than doing nothing at all. Northfield’s children need all the good guidance that they can get. To use that old saying… “It takes a village” to bring up our children.

    To those that think DARE does not work, so be it. I appreciate your opinion, however, I would ask that they offer suggestions to what else we may be able to do to continue to get a positive message out to our youth?

    As a parent, I constantly talk to my 9 year old about everything. I would also want other positive role models engaging my son at every available opportunity.

    I will go and look a the WP references again… and see where they lead.

    Griff, Ross, Tracy… keep up the good work, and thanks for putting up with me.

    -John Thomas

    March 6, 2008
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    Apologies accepted, John. Glad you’re hanging in there with us!

    Curt, the Know the Truth web site is at:

    Know the Truth is a teenage substance abuse prevention program of Minnesota Teen Challenge– a faith-based residential drug and alcohol program for teenagers and adults. Know the Truth works with teenagers, parents and teachers, educating them in the dangers of substance use and offering help to those that seek it. We are individuals who have struggled with substance addiction and who now want to share with you our stories about our choices and our recovery.

    March 6, 2008
  22. Jane Moline said:

    John George: I think DARE is not better than nothing–I think that it is harmful because it teaches the officers who instruct it to spin drug information–and when students figure out that some of the information is wrong, they are not sure if ANY information is correct. Or if any police are telling the truth. Or if any adults tell the truth.

    Drug education should be factual. The truth is, we do not have a definitive way of predicting who will be harmed by drugs. Some people took LSD when they were younger and they have a normal life now with normal children (as far as anyone can tell)–so they did not have chromosonal damage from LSD use. I had friends who had LSD slippled to them in their open can of POP (not beer.) Thankfully, they survived their “trip” but it was not something they chose to do.

    We do not know who will become alchoholics. We don’t know who will become drug addicts–but we know that recovering drug addicts should not drink alchohol.

    Nicotine is more addicting than Meth.

    Alchohol causes more deaths, and more life problems, than ALL other ABUSED drugs (prescription or illegal) combined.

    So, we need to speak truth to kids–that we don’t know which ones of them will be harmed by drugs–who wants to take the chance that it will be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time they try something before it starts to be addicting or damages them in some way that they can’t tell?

    And it is very nice to teach kids to resist peer pressure (would you jump off a bridge if your friends told you to?) That is simplistic. We have kids out there who are turning to their parents liqour cache or the medicine cabinet to fill a need. There are a lot of kids who need help and look for it in a bottle. They really don’t care about peer pressure or what the police say–we need to let them know there is somewhere they can go for help.

    March 6, 2008
  23. John George said:

    Sean- In reference to discipline, perhaps we are looking at two definitions. There is a connection that has been made between punishment and discipline. I wonder if that is underlying in your response to the word? I believe a more proper definition of discipline is the context of changing a behavior. For instance, a marathon runner “disciplines” his body to build up endurance. In academia, the various focuses are called “disciplines”. The whole implication here is that a person can change his behavior, beliefs, etc., as he applies himself to a “discipline.” This is exactly what a young person who is predisposed to abuse patterns needs to do. We are not animals, driven by uncontrolable instincts. We do have the ability to learn from our mistakes and change our behaviors.

    This leads to my response to Bruce’s comment, “…I have serious doubts that D.A.R.E. can make any difference unless parents are engaged from birth on as partners with the schools in teaching about this issue.” This has got to be the best observation I have seen posted here. In our society of specialization, too many parents have given up the raising of their children to the “experts” in education. These educators should be merely reinforcing the values and directions we parents are instilling in our children. They are not supposed to be raising them for us. This is the common observation I have gotten from my three daughters and one daughter-in-law who are in education. They feel that many parents are passively involved in the lives of their children and are trusting the schools to straighten them out. This is a trend I believe must be reversed if we want to see our youth flourish. Perhaps my suggestion that D.A.R.E. include involvement of the parents would be the catalyst that would make the program work. In fact, I’m not sure ANY program will work if there is not involvement of the parents.

    March 6, 2008
  24. John George said:

    Jane- I think it was John Thomas who said that maybe D.A.R.E. is better than nothing, but that is ok. I agree with what you are saying. This is not a problem that can be handled simplistically. Take a look at my post #23. Like Bruce said, education of anything needs to start in the home with the family.

    March 7, 2008
  25. kiffi summa said:

    Sean: thanks for a really great list of suggestions, whether you say it was just a quick “off the top of your head”, or not. It looked pretty good to me.

    I think the best program would be one that kids had a hand in structuring.

    Julie: you also make a good point in saying that the program was a stimulus for your kids to come home and talk with you, and therefore the “prompt” of the school program was positive.

    I still would like to know what it costs to put DARE in the schools, who pays for it, school? police? is it a gov’t subsidized program? How much time in the classroom is invested in it? Do teachers want it?

    Anyone know what’s the most credible review/ analysis of the program…….
    Jane: do you know?

    March 7, 2008
  26. Julie Bixby said:

    Thanks Sean. I think you have some great ideas.

    How about having, as Kiffi suggests, young people’s input along with kids who have been through rehab?

    Sean, do you really think we should teach kids how to “experiment cautiously”?
    Also, isn’t it because of the illegality of drugs that the police present the program?


    March 7, 2008
  27. Jane Moline said:

    October 11, 1993 USA Today did an article regarding the DARE program, research studies, and DARE program supporters who have continually attempted to suppress the results of the studies, which in a nutshell, conclude:

    “A preliminary report from the RTI — analyzing eight studies involving 9,500 children — says D.A.R.E. has “a limited to essentially non-existent effect” on drug use. ”

    The studies that have been done, including those by researchers hired by DARE, all conclude the same.

    As a child of the sixties, I am skeptical of a program where the supporters attempt to refute or suppress analysis of their program rather than modify or improve the program. I don’t know how to tie into the 1993 USA Today, but I believe there are more studies and information, as well, I just don’t have time to follow up on that.

    March 7, 2008
  28. kiffi summa said:

    I checked out the website of Know the Truth/MN Teen Challenge, and frankly, found it to be shocking. It seems to have no connections with trained professionals in the field; the Board of Directors are mostly business people, no apparent medical, psychology, social work professionals.
    If their agenda is other than ‘faith-based” they sure aren’t telling the public about it.
    I am appalled from just an admittedly surface exploration, that the NF schools would bring in a group like this rather than make higher and more intense use of the committed professionals we have in NF and Rice County.
    Unless their website is very misleading, and why would it be if they are sincere in dealing with a complex social health issue, they would appear to be UNequipped to deal with any substance abuse problems on a medical professional basis.
    We have a community owned hospital. I fully understand the need for any hospital to be competitive in this very dollar-oriented , business health care system we have fallen into; but it is past time for our NF Hospital to answer the needs of this community and develop a comprehensive substance abuse program. It needs to begin with education and diagnosis, and progress through treatment, then follow up with all levels of patient and family support.

    If the problem is as bad as some say, then such a program should also be profitable! And I don’t say that with cynicism, but with realism. Ask your community owned hospital to serve ALL the needs of the community.

    March 7, 2008
  29. When I was a kid, we were told all sorts of things about drugs. Many of them were absolute nonsense. Some of them were true. A lot of kids, once they found out that some of them were nonsense, didn’t believe the true ones either.

    I know this is probably one of those radical ideas the world’s not ready for, but what if we had a drug education program that was honest with kids about the comparative risks, about which things are addictive — and which aren’t — and otherwise treated them like they were capable of making decisions, just a little? I would think that the long-term benefit of not having the entire program dismissed as transparent lies would be worth it.

    Scare tactics turn out not to be especially effective…

    March 8, 2008
  30. A lot of kids, once they found out that some of [these drug claims] were nonsense, didn’t believe the true ones either.


    March 8, 2008
  31. Joe Dokken said:

    I need someone to give me the ground rules on other people’s comments.
    Can we retort? If there are guidelines, please direct me to the location. I am possibly at the wrong location to be asking this question??? I would like to respond to Kiffi Summa’s observations about Teen Challenge. Especially in light of her bar room poll that she finds accurate. Thanks P.S, I just found the comment guidlines link.

    Kiffi do you know anything about Teen Challenge other than what you have read on their web-site?
    Do you know that Judges have the ability to remand defendants to their 60 day in-house treatment plan?
    Do you think that trained professionals such as judges and lawyers would send juveniles to a non-professional treatment facility? Do you know the recidivism rates of the TeenChallenge programs? If their recidivism rate is really as low as their statistics say, then isn’t that proven effectivness?

    March 9, 2008
  32. Joe, I gather from your questions to Kiffi that you support Teen Challenge. Part of her objection to the program was that it was faith-based and lacked the oversight of medical professionals. Though it doesn’t make your questions any less legitimate, it is worth noting that you’re a pastor, and thus you could naturally have something of a bias toward faith-based programs like this.

    March 9, 2008
  33. Joe Dokken said:

    Yes, Sean, I am a Pastor. Actually I am a Licensed Minister with the Assemblies of God. I have recently resigned as Pastor of Abundant Life Assembly here in Northfield, where my wife and I ministered for 17 years. My knowledge of Teen Challenge would be considered more than casual. There is no doubt that Teen Challenge is a Christian “Faith-Based” organization. Everything in life has some kind of “faith” base. An organization either recognizes a diety, or it does not. Or you may place your faith in other things such as human nature, psychology, or the medical community. Nothing in life is neutral. My concern is the assumption that anything religous is somehow dangerous or covert in their ultimate purpose. I don’t doubt that certain religous organizations have agendas that have negative motives. The question that needs to be asked is, why do these types of organizations such as Teen Challenge exsist? Actions speak louder than words. Teen Challenge saves Minnesota tax payers millions of dollars each year by providing free treatment to adult students, and minimal charges to juveniles. The State provides no funding directly to T.C. and any govermental funds which come through county programs go to pay for room and board. I will not bore you with all the figures, but check out how much a year-long treatment program costs the State of Minnesota. Medical professionals are very important, but so are Spiritual professionals. I personally believe that when you break your leg you should go to the doctor, and if you need someone to drive you to the clinic your pastor just might be the right person. His professional help is not in fixing your bones but calming your heart and speaking words of comfort. Pity the man who has no one to pick him up when he falls down.Teen Challenge works very closely with medical professionals and has a very strict policy on providing proper physical care to all of their students. Is Christianity a big part of Teen Challenge? Yes. If some other religious or non-religous organization wants to develop a more effecient way of treating individuals with life-controlling habits, please do! I think that financial hurdles will most likely prevent most “care-givers” from stepping into this realm of prevention and treatment.

    March 9, 2008
  34. kiffi summa said:

    Joe: I did not mean to imply that what you call my “barroom poll” was anything but the opinion of six people having a discussion at the Contented Cow. It was “accurate” only in reporting that consensus, having nothing to do with any larger selection.

    I stand by my opinion of the website I looked at. I also believe a “spiritual” component is very important for each person’s life; but I do believe that when dealing with any substance abuse problem there needs to be a medical component also. There are simply too many medical ramifications of substance abuse to not include that component of expertise in the total equation. And that medical expertise is what I found lacking.

    There are many “faith-based” help groups that have judges directing cases to them, for all kinds of assistance. The more persons, and organizations, that take it upon themselves to help cure societal ills, the better.

    Please do not presume that I think anything with a religious component is “dangerous or covert in their ultimate purpose”. I said nothing like that.

    March 10, 2008
  35. Ray Cox said:

    I’ve been a supporter of Teen Challenge for several years. I challenge anyone to attend their annual event, talk with participants and not come away convinced of the powerful work they do. They have a tremendous outreach to people and it seems to work well.
    But I believe the majority of their work is with people….youth and adults…that are already having trouble with drugs and alcohol. As Joe pointed out, the state does get involved in this program by providing financial support for the costs of living for the residents. They also expect to see success in the program, which is demonstrated on a regular basis.
    I think Teen Challenge is a perfect example of a public-private partnership that works.

    March 10, 2008
  36. Joe Dokken said:

    Kiffi, I was addressing Sean, when I used the statements that you took issue with, they were not intended as a personal retort towards you. I found your comments about Teen Challenge, to be presumptive from simply viewing a web site. You are the one who used the words, “appalled”, “shocked”, “unequipped”, “no connections”, and “profitable”. My questions to you were sincere in nature and my response to Sean was directed to him. I want to follow the guidelines as best as possible when inputing comments. Being a new voice in this ongoing community dialouge requires my careful questioning of any other blogger. I am sorry that I assumed to much about Sean’s mention of possible “bias”. I would be very happy to explain my statements towards Sean about “dangerous or covert”.
    I am very passionate about Teen Challenge, you most likely struck a chord in my heart that resonates with high praise for their efforts.

    March 10, 2008
  37. Curt Benson said:

    I found a link to a video created by Minnesota Teen Challenge. The schedule on their website shows that they will be presenting their program for two days in the Northfield High School in April–it’s not like they’ve taken over the drug education component of the health classes. I believe the health teachers must have seen some value in their presentation since they must have invited them back after seeing them in last fall’s classes.

    March 10, 2008
  38. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    Here is what the Executive Director says on its website. This is NOT something that should be going through the doors of the High School.

    America is experiencing a drug epidemic. Back in the early 1970s I had my own serious drug addiction. A former hippie, drug dealer and serious addict, I was able to kick the habit through my own spiritual rebirth. What treatment couldn’t do alone, a personal relationship with Christ did. I have been completely drug free since 1972. After college and graduate school I entered the ministry where I have been active for over 30 years. My whole ministry has always involved working with the addiction community. I have a Masters Degree in Psychology and Counseling from the University of Wisconsin and love working with the recovery community; I have devoted my life to this work.

    God has obviously blessed Minnesota Teen Challenge. Over the years we have gained a strong reputation of being one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programs in the state. We have a very dedicated staff of professionals that give their life and soul for every resident here. It is an honor to be a part of this organization.

    March 10, 2008
  39. Felicity Enders said:

    Hi all,

    I’m behind on this board and will be reading over the next few days to catch up since it looks like an interesting discussion. In the meantime, John George requested specifics on the potential damaging effects of alcohol on the teenage developing brain. The American Medical Association has a report on this which includes the following statements:

    Drinkers vs. non-drinkers: research findings

    * Adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-users on vocabulary, general information, memory, memory retrieval and at least three other tests
    * Verbal and nonverbal information recall was most heavily affected, with a 10 percent performance decrease in alcohol users
    * Significant neuropsychological deficits exist in early to middle adolescents (ages 15 and 16) with histories of extensive alcohol use
    * Adolescent drinkers perform worse in school, are more likely to fall behind and have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence
    * Alcohol affects the sleep cycle, resulting in impaired learning and memory as well as disrupted release of hormones necessary for growth and maturation
    * Alcohol use increases risk of stroke among young drinkers

    Adverse effects of alcohol on the brain: research findings
    Youth who drink can have a significant reduction in learning and memory, and teen alcohol users are most susceptible to damaging two key brain areas that are undergoing dramatic changes in adolescence:

    * The hippocampus handles many types of memory and learning and suffers from the worst alcohol-related brain damage in teens. Those who had been drinking more and for longer had significantly smaller hippocampi (10 percent).
    * The prefrontal area (behind the forehead) undergoes the most change during adolescence. Researchers found that adolescent drinking could cause severe changes in this area and others, which play an important role in forming adult personality and behavior and is often called the CEO of the brain.

    They go on to suggest specifics of what can be done to reduce teen alcohol use.

    For the record, I’m opposed to DARE for the reasons others have outlined above. Also, for any who don’t know, DARE is the topic of next week’s Politics & a Pint discussion: see

    March 10, 2008
  40. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    If you are looking for some criticism of Minnesota Teen Challenge, try looking here. The second website is a goldmine of information. And yes there are success stories (lot’s of them) and it isn’t this that I am criticizing (though I could). It is the faith-aspect that should make it an impossibility to teach in public schools. We have this whole separation of Church and State things going on and Christ is central to the program.

    March 10, 2008
  41. Joe Dokken said:

    Josh, I don’t know you, so I am wondering why you feel opposed to this oganization? Is it the Jesus factor? WIth no sarcasim intented, do you think they might talk about God in an innapropriate way? If they intended on having a church service in the school don’t you think that the principal would object? I personally find no problem with Christians operating assemblies in school. If my doctor was a Christian I wouldn’t expect him to share Bible verses during my annual exam. Christians do have the ability to stay focused on teaching drug prevention to teenagers, without proselytizing them into their specific faith expereince. A number of the teachers in Northfield High School attend Christian churches and go to bible-studies, yet find the ability to separate work from church activities. I think that people (in general) are afraid that some one might hear the name of God in a public school. God’s name is spoken every day in school, sometimes nobly, yet more often not.

    March 10, 2008
  42. Joe Dokken said:

    Sorry for the oops on sarcasm and inappropriate. My Bad! As my 12 year-old would say.

    March 10, 2008
  43. Josh Hinnenkamp said:


    It is nice to meet you. The thing I have an issue with is that the organization has an inherent and documented agenda that is religiously based. While it is permissible for public schools to teach about religion, it is not permissible to promote particular religious beliefs. If a Muslim or Catholic (or any religious) organization came in and taught about drug prevention, etc. it would be equally upsetting and illegal. I would have no problem with a secular organization doing this but NOT one that is religiously based. Even if a religious organization does not mention God, their organization is completely enveloped by religious dogma and it is in fact a mission of the organization to include Christ within its drug rehabilitation. This is the argument I have from a lawful stature. If we wish to get personal I could bring politics and funding sources of Minnesota Teen Challenge into the picture. You maybe okay with, and may agree with, these funding sources, but I do not. But this second argument is strictly from a personal level and has nothing to do with the legal issues I have.

    Besides, from looking at the information the major differences MTC and a secular organization is that MTC uses Christian theology and doesn’t seem to have trained professionals. If you take away the Christian aspect, what the heck are the untrained professionals going to talk about? I’d rather have trained professionals talking to the youth at the high school.

    March 10, 2008
  44. Josh, I completely agree with you. Unless they’re there to talk about religion (and all religions are being represented), it’s just not acceptable to have a group claiming to be “blessed by God” in a public school.

    March 10, 2008
  45. Britt Ackerman said:

    Although I am not a parent, I agree with Josh that the Teen Challenge program is not appropriate in a public school setting. I did check out their Know the Truth website (sponsored by Walser Chevrolet). Perhaps they do secular programming in the schools…but even so…just the title “Know the Truth” is disturbing.

    Oh, and they have a MySpace page too…only 80 members and 7 comments, so not very informative.

    March 10, 2008
  46. Joe Dokken said:

    Josh, more questions: What religous belief does Teen Challenge promote at their drug seminars? How do you know that religous oganizations are illegal in school settings? I have gone to multiple briefings on what is allowed in Public Schools and nothing has ever been considered illegal if guidelines are followed. Ask yourself this question, how many school assembly organizations have no religous underpinnings? I don’t know the figure, but I will guess that 75% of these groups claim some religous connection. How is it that hundreds of other Public Schools in Minnesota use organizations like MTC and lawyers have not been involved?

    Let’s return to the original issue of results, or lack of results, by DARE.

    MTC has a proven track record of results in drug treatment. I think most of the objection is the fact that Christians are involved. America stands for the rights of all citizens to express their feelings in a public setting. I grew up in Willmar, and my PUBLIC School was exactly that. It was a public school, not private. Public Schools should be the epitome of free expression(speech) and ideas within the guidelines of our constitution.

    If a Muslim organization wants to have a drug treatment program that helps teenagers, let them. We live in America, where ideas and speech are still considered sacred. Even the speech I don’t agree with. The essence of a free society is to protect the public arena, so that all groups and/or creeds can operate free of censorship.

    Public Schools should be on the cutting edge of First Amendment rights.

    March 10, 2008
  47. kiffi summa said:

    Joe: Once again, I must use the word appalled. How could you not, in your responses, say that at least some of your support for Teen Challenge comes from the fact that it is directly related to the Assemblies of God Churches?

    That certainly is a factor in your appraisal of the organization; how could it not be? Surely you give your wholehearted support to any organization that is a “subset” of your church.

    Let’s be clear; I need to reiterate…..The fact that it is “faith-based” is not what I find fault with. My objection is still based on the lack of medical professionals on the Board of Directors.

    I question whether the High School is getting themselves into the same sort of precarious position as they did with the very controversial Music Assembly, some years ago, that had objectionable outcomes for many students; asa matter of fact I remember a very thorough letter of concern from the District Supt. at that time , detailing the problems caused by that Music Assembly.

    Why revisit that territory?

    March 10, 2008
  48. Max Jennings said:

    Joe, I don’t think that it is the results that Teen Challenge reports to have that bothers Josh (and myself) it is the fact that the organization says that it is faith based that bothers Josh and I. The public school system is nonsecular and there for shouldn’t not bring in a faith based organization into teach. What they even teach during their seminar is not important (they are coming into my health class later this year, so soon I will have first hand knowledge of their tactics) it is the basis of their organization that is the issue.
    “how many school assembly organizations have no religous underpinnings? I don’t know the figure, but I will guess that 75% of these groups claim some religous connection.” could you explain what you mean by this sentence please. I don’t understand what you mean.

    March 10, 2008
  49. Joe Dokken said:

    Kiffi, I am happy to answer your question. Teen Challenge is under the “covering” or leadership of the Assemblies of God. Most genuine Christian organizations have some kind of accountability group. Even St Olaf college has affiliations with the ELCA. I know that the Board of Directors for Teen Challenge is filled with men and women from various Christian denominations. Here is a list of board members.
    Darrel Amiot – Amiot Financial
    Bill Bojan – Integrated Governance Solutions
    Carol DeOtis – Edina Realty
    Paul Flower – Flower & Schutz, PLC
    Jan Hawkins – John Henry Foster
    Dale Holmgren – Granite Pointe Partners
    Jim Huseby – Becker Furniture World
    Vicki Jefferis – Grace Manor
    Peter Murlowski – Timber Craft Enterprises, Inc.
    Daniel Mus – Brooklyn Printing
    Terry Plath – Lawson Software
    Steve Poppen – Minnesota Vikings
    John Roise – Lindsay Windows
    Rev. Richard Scherber – Minnesota Teen Challenge
    Rev. Clarence St. John – MN District Council of the Assemblies of God
    Frank Vennes – Metro Gem

    3 of these individuals are directly connected with my fellowship. (Assemblies of God) Possibly others, cannot say for certain.

    Before I was a Minister with the A/G I attended an A/G congegation and before that I was a member of Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar. (Sen. Dean Johnson was my youth pastor.)
    (The girls were nicer looking at the A/G church in Willmar. God works in mysterious ways!)

    I supported Teen Challenge even when I was growing up in Willmar. Back then the Minnesota group was just starting. (U.S. TC started in late 50’s)
    I support more non-A/G ministries than I do from my own fellowship.

    Teen Challenge does a very good job of not over-promoting their leadership denomination.

    Lest we forget, the Salvation Army is a Christian Denomination.

    The American Red Cross-Clara Barton -her faith motivated her to help the hurting.

    AA was started by 2 men who saw a need for supernatural intervention.

    Samaritains Purse was recharged by a wayward son of Billy Graham
    Franklin Graham and operation Christmas Child, last year, provided Christmas gifts to millions of children in 120 nations around the world.

    I could go on! I support many ministries, Catholic, Protestant, or non-denominational.

    Gary Gilbertson, from Northfield, who helps college students connect with other Christians on various campuses.

    Ok! I’ll quit.
    The point is, yes! they have A/G background, I find no conflict!

    March 10, 2008
  50. Joe, I don’t think anyone’s saying that religiously based organizations are inherently harmful, just that we need to be cautious about letting them into our schools — especially, as Kiffi pointed, when there’s not sufficient medical backing to match the religious inspiration behind the group.

    (Red Cross and Salvation Army are curious examples, though, since both have been criticized for religiously “founded” conservative political positions; if Teen Challenge takes any similar positions, it would open up another can of worms of political organizations in schools.)

    March 10, 2008
  51. Anne Bretts said:

    Joe, the problem is that the people who agree with a specific faith group seldom find its presence offensive or intrusive. I remember a choir director in Duluth who saw nothing wrong with limiting his class songlist to Western European church music, even though the rabbi’s daughter had to spend hours a day practicing it throughout the semester, then sing the carols at the ‘winter’ concert. Funny how few Christians saw this as a problem, yet when Somali women want to wear scarves and long dresses in gym class, those same people are very upset
    It’s human nature. We think that what’s normal for us should be normal for everyone. That’s why public places should be places where we all can be normal in our own way as long as we don’t start forcing our version of normal on others.
    I do think there’s a difference between donating toys or food to the Salvation Army and having the Salvation Army run programs in the school. If Teen Challenge ran a truly secular version of its program for public schools and a religious one for other audiences, fine, but it doesn’t — and that’s the problem.

    March 10, 2008
  52. Joe Dokken said:

    Max, I don’t know you, but I like your first name. Possibly my children have been in your class. My wife tells me I have to quit blogging. Something about the fact that I need to get my resumes submitted.
    I feel somewhat unleashed from my position as an outside observer. My congregation is now a total of 7. (Spouse, 3 children, a dog and Callie our cat.) Damage control is much simpler. I’m enjoying the new leeway to challenge conventional wisdom. I really don’t try to be agrumentative, it just happens. I am just as passionate about my philosophies of life as any one else. In the last 17 years I have only interjected myself into community debate, thrice: The big box argument , the welfare funding cuts by Governer Carlson in the mid 90’s, and “seperation of church and state” in 2001.
    To clarify my statement: Most organizations that work with High Schools’ and specifically High School assemblies, seem to have religious roots.
    The not-for-profit school assembly organizations seem to have strong roots in Christianity.
    Not always, and not all with right motives. Some find it an easy way to stay employed.

    I think that everyone should review what is and is not legal activity in our public schools. I would be happy to keep the discussion going if others, myself included, want to find out the “facts”. Just because you or I don’t like a group’s background, it does not change their right to pursue noble activity.

    Helping young people addicted to drugs, leave that lifestyle, is desired by all. What Mother would balk at her child leaving a life of Meth and choosing to work at a Christian orphanage?

    If there truly is a law that does not allow this activity, than all my points are moot and I have wasted your time and mine.

    March 10, 2008
  53. Max Jennings said:

    For me it isn’t about what is legal (I don’t have the ability to challenge an organization like this in court, and I don’t even pretend to know all the law surrounding it). For me personally it is about the fact that I do not believe in the existence of a higher power (I don’t want to start that argument, I am merely stating my personal beliefs). I have never experienced the program that Teen Challenge presents in schools, so I judge the religious content of the program. Where I have a problem is when a person’s religiousness is equated with their worth (eg. to over come drugs you must embrace god, people that are religious are inherently more moral). It when religion is used to solve problems of people that aren’t religious, is where I have a problem. I admire the work that some of the organizations do in solving problems, but I don’t think that it is fair for these groups to present to a class where attendance is obligatory. Also religiously based groups should never be given federal funding, if they want to have access to the coffers of the entire population of the United States then they have to reflect the views of the entire United States (namely, no denomination or religious group is followed by the entire population, so therefore the government must remain unbiased towards all members of its population).
    I hope my post didn’t fall to far out of the scope of its intention.

    March 10, 2008
  54. Max Jennings said:

    I have never experienced the program that Teen Challenge runs in schools so I can’t judge the content of the their program.
    That is how the sentence was suppose to read. Sorry.

    March 10, 2008
  55. Joe Dokken said:

    Anne, I feel awkward not knowing who I’m responding to, being a new contributor, I feel like I need to tell you something about myself. Jumping right in seems cold and distant.

    Here are 3 questions to ponder?

    Is being nice or caring completely secular in origin and operation?

    Can a person forgive someone solely on the merit of human will and human will alone?

    Is love a secular philosophy that can be repeated in a classroom and passed on to future generations with some sense of standardized definition?

    March 10, 2008
  56. John George said:

    Kiffi & Sean- Are you really talking about the separation of church and state or are you promoting the separation of church FROM state? At face value, it seems more like the latter. Just as a for instance, if something works, but does not fit into your particular belief that it should NOT work, does that make it wrong? Just wondering.

    As far as your points about the physiological effects of drugs, can these really be resolved without addressing the spiritual defeciencies that lead to the abuse? Just wondering, again. It seems there is a need for both sides, here. Physically removing the drug from the body will definitely have an effect for the positive. What do you do then with the emotional needs if you do not address the spiritual causes underlying them? If we are not going to be allowed to present this case in the public school setting, then where is the opportunity for critical thinking? Or, is there a line of academic thinking that is not allowed to be criticized?

    March 10, 2008
  57. Are you really talking about the separation of church and state or are you promoting the separation of church FROM state?

    John, can you clarify what distinction there is between the two?

    March 10, 2008
  58. John George said:

    Sean- In the original writing of the constitution, the founders stated that the government shall make no laws restricting religion, or establishing a state religion. It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “…there needs to be a wall of separation between the state and the church,” and that line is not in the Constitution. He wrote this in response to a letter from a pastor expressing fears that the new government would begin to interfere in the operations of the local churches. In the current application of this, the trend is to remove any type of “religious” views, especially Christian, from being presented in the public schools. The original intent was to keep government out of the churches. Now, we see a move to keep any type of church or faith based organization, as Kiffi alluded to, from being able to present their views in the public school, or city hall, for that matter. I just believe this is a blatant infringement on the freedom of speech and the freedom of access, let alone the civil rights of we Christians.

    I also think it is ironic that the original bastions of higher learning were established for the specific purpose of training men to preach and pastor congregations springing up in the newly settled terrotories. How far we have drifted from that purpose.

    Just another point, if the secular methods and institutions for freeing people from drug abuse are so successful, why do we not see the same results from them that we do from Teen Challenge, specifically? Just wondering.

    March 10, 2008
  59. John George said:

    Felicity- Thank you for some statistics. I really appreciate them.

    March 10, 2008
  60. Well though I don’t consider it an infringement of the “civil rights of Christians,” I would say that, yes, the government (particularly schools, since school attendance is mandatory) should be avoiding any possible endorsement of a religion — and I got the impression that that sentiment is shared by Max, Josh, Anne, and Kiffi (sorry to be putting words in your mouths if I’m incorrect about this, guys).

    Since the argument here is ethical perhaps more than it is legal, I’m comfortable saying that we can look beyond the 1700s. The fact is that, at that time, there was no compulsory public education, and no similar opportunity for forcing religious beliefs on people. The Framers could not envisioned such a problem to set up safeguards for. Even if they could have foreseen it, though, it was 200 years ago; we can’t follow their exact intentions, because their exact intentions are antiquated — we must instead follow their principles. One of those principles, if not as complete as some of us in this thread have expressed a desire for was separation of church and state.

    March 10, 2008
  61. Max Jennings said:

    Joe it is statements like this that upset me: “Is being nice or caring completely secular in origin and operation?” Being nice or caring may be based in religion for you, but for me it isn’t, so it is fair offensive that you would allude to religion being necessary. The other two statements have the same problem.

    March 11, 2008
  62. I can vouch for Max on that one, comment #61. He’s a nice, caring kid.

    John G. – Your understanding of the Constitutional separation of church and state, and the origins thereof, match mine. Our interpretations differ.

    The relevant portion (indeed, the first portion) of the First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    Two conditions: Establishment. Free Exercise. They are not to intersect in a purposeful manner.

    So when you say:

    The original intent was to keep government out of the churches. Now, we see a move to keep any type of church or faith based organization, as Kiffi alluded to, from being able to present their views in the public school, or city hall, for that matter. I just believe this is a blatant infringement on the freedom of speech and the freedom of access, let alone the civil rights of we Christians.

    I disagree. If you, as a private citizen, wish to pray in a public space, like a school, go to it. (Provided the school is open and available to the public at the time.) But you cannot expect that the school should pay taxpayer money – in the terms of either payment for services, or time out of the school day – to bring in a group that espouses the practice of a particular religion (in this case, Christianity) as the key method of their success.

    This would hold true if it were a group telling the kids that the only way to defeat drugs would be to run away from the concept of God and embrace atheism, or to find the Buddha, or Gaia, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – though an exception might be made in that last case due to obvious satire.

    Yes, their cause is good. Yes, they may even be successful. However, I doubt the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists want to be told that drugs are going to get them unless they embrace Jesus. I’m drug-free (well, except for caffeine) and not religious, for instance.

    The separation of church AND state is not a crystal clear, perfectly-drawn line. There are gray areas with which most people are comfortable, and there are extremists on both sides of the equation.

    Many public schools, for instance, have Christian students groups, which to me seems fine provided the school administration affords equal access and opportunity for students groups that are secular or of another religion. Northfield High School itself rents out its auditorium (I think it’s the auditorium.) every Sunday to a Christian denomination. Again, this may be a bad thing for an extreme “Church / State separatist”, but I think nearly all people see the difference between that situation and the same group holding its services during the school day.

    Anyway, I wish this group great, continued success. I heartily endorse their goals, even if I do not support all of their methodology. Hmmm… I think I could say the same about most religions in general.

    March 11, 2008
  63. No idea why I used the phrase “students groups”…

    Not once, but twice!

    Yikes… ugly, just plain ugly… “student groups” suffices.

    March 11, 2008
  64. Patrick Enders said:

    Wow. I’ve gotten a bit behind here. So many important topics to weigh in on here – I wish we had a few separate threads to discuss the various issues.

    On the original topic: DARE. This one is fairly simple. It has been thoroughly studied, and there is no evidence that it works. That alone should be enough of a reason not to waste our children’s precious school time on it. Also, I too am concerned about using police officers to spread scare-tactic style information (and perhaps misinformation). The school has a valid role in educating kids on the facts about drug and alcohol use and abuse, and there are plenty of concerning facts about use of these various substances that kids should hear about without resorting to either misinformation or an intentional lack of information a la the equally ineffective “just say no” and “abstinence only” campaigns.

    The fact is, teenagers and young adults are learning to make decisions for themselves. They’re growing up, and they have to learn how to make smart choices. The best thing schools can offer is honest, accurate information.

    (And I disagree with Sean on his suggestion that this should NOT include the legality of use of these substances. Legal implications of drug use are valid points of discussion, as legal penalties are actual negative results of drug use. Of course, “illegal” is a very different concept from “wrong,” and we should always be careful not to conflate the two, no matter how much they may overlap.)

    Teaching morality, on the other hand, is a far more problematic thing for schools to get in to.

    As John George said,

    In our society of specialization, too many parents have given up the raising of their children to the “experts” in education. These educators should be merely reinforcing the values and directions we parents are instilling in our children. They are not supposed to be raising them for us. This is the common observation I have gotten from my three daughters and one daughter-in-law who are in education. They feel that many parents are passively involved in the lives of their children and are trusting the schools to straighten them out. This is a trend I believe must be reversed if we want to see our youth flourish.

    Schools are excellent places to pass on information, and to learn methods for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information. In the context of Civics, they need to learn the rules of society: what laws are, why we have them, an how we interact with them. (That is, very briefly: we are bound together by an agreed-upon set of laws that maintain order, and allow us to coexist peacefully (and hopefully prosperously) together. We also have methods for revising and refining those laws.)

    However, schools need to stay away from teaching “morality.” The fact is, if you get twenty of us in a room, there is no way that we will agree on what morality is, where it comes from, or what its tenets are. Morality is very personal, and has to come from the home, according to the beliefs of that family.

    If people want to tell kids that the only way to avoid (or quit abusing) drugs and alcohol is to trust to God, that’s a message that is perfectly appropriate to the home, church, or synagogue. However, that is not a message that is based in evidence. For starters, plenty of atheists (and buddhists, etc.) do not abuse any of those things.

    However, in the schools, our kids are a captive audience, and we cannot allow any group that proselytizes to speak to that captive audience. We can’t allow a Buddhist into school to tell your kids that the only way to achieve global peace is to embrace one’s harmony with the universe as a whole. Nor an atheist to tell your kids that religious beliefs are the cause of all the ills of society. And not an Assembly of God lay minister who wants to tell your kids that the only way to kick a drug habit is to ask his God for help. (Oh, and apologies to all the groups that I just grossly mischaracterized with those cliched, fictional, examples.)

    Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am no longer sure exactly where the law stands on what is (or is not) allowed in schools, but I know it is a heavily-litigated issue. I know only that, with the replacement of liberal Supreme Court Justices with conservative ones, that legal threshold has shifted in the last several years. I would propose that “The Seperation of Church and State” would be an excellent topic for discussion at Politics-and-a-Pint sometime this spring.

    Oh, and in response to Joe Dokken’s

    Here are 3 questions to ponder?
    Is being nice or caring completely secular in origin and operation?

    Can be.

    Can a person forgive someone solely on the merit of human will and human will alone?


    Is love a secular philosophy that can be repeated in a classroom and passed on to future generations with some sense of standardized definition?

    Probably not. Love is an inherently difficult thing to define, because “love” means so very many different things to so very many differnet people. But do you really believe that un-christian people are incapable of love, compassion, and forgiveness?

    March 11, 2008
  65. I disagree with Sean on his suggestion that this should NOT include the legality of use of these substances. Legal implications of drug use are valid points of discussion

    They are valid points of discussion, yes, but they’re not health-related and not relevant to health class. By talking about illegality, you really risk muddying the medical facts of the drugs.

    March 11, 2008
  66. Patrick Enders said:

    Oh, and Brendon – I wholeheartedly agree with your explanation (post #62) of the First Amendment. Thanks for that.

    March 11, 2008
  67. Patrick Enders said:

    Now I understand where you’re coming from on that. I guess we mostly agree.

    If drugs are being discussed in a health class, the health effects of drug and alcohol use and abuse should be discussed.

    However, I would think that the best context for drug and alcohol education would be a cross-curriculum lesson on drug and alcohol use and abuse – which to my mind should include observational data about the number of persons who suffer adverse effects from drug and alcohol abuse, and the kind of negative results they suffer. That is, health effects, social costs, and legal penalties. Also, one just has to admit the social context and history of substance use. The fact is, people have been drinking alcohol since the time they started growing crops. Probably longer. It is a legacy of human culture, as is (to a lesser degree) the use of tobacco and other substances.

    March 11, 2008
  68. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    For those looking into alternatives to DARE I found this link that seems to have a pretty good list and decent description of each program. I do not endorse the site I received this info from nor all of the info in this list. These are simply alternatives to the DARE program that may or may not be effective. Some are also not really relative to the discussion (unless we wish to bring steroids), but many seems to be excellent alternatives.

    March 11, 2008
  69. Julie Bixby said:

    Wow! This discussion went in many directions.
    IF religion helps someone give up drugs is it wrong? Certainly not for that person.
    IF schools should not have any religious agendas why do they still have a Christmas concert? Oh, I guess now they call it a “winter concert”.
    Why do we “attack” (possibly too strong a word) each other?
    Let’s get back to the beginning where, I believe, Sean and Kiffi offered specific suggestions on what might be a better program than DARE.

    March 11, 2008
  70. David Ludescher said:

    Unfortunately, 8 months after the heroin media show, the public still has no clue if Chief Smith’s numbers had any factual basis. How can we solve the problem if we don’t know what the problem is?

    March 11, 2008
  71. Anne Bretts said:

    David L., you’re exactly right. No numbers, no plan, no coordination between the police and treatment community and school board, no sense of what progress would be or how it would be measured.
    Where are the joint meetings, the refined data, the goals and objectives?
    I’m not saying there’s no drug problem here in town, but I still don’t know how it differs from the problems in other communities — if it does. To know that the only public announcement about a program is about one that doesn’t work is disheartening.
    Has the crime wave been tracked over the last 8 months? Are there numbers for students in treatment or recovering? I’m not being facetious; I’d really be interested to know what’s going on.

    March 11, 2008
  72. Felicity Enders said:

    David, I completely agree. We need actual facts on which to base this discussion.

    Re Teen challenge – this is a nonstarter. As others have said, because it’s a program based within a particular religion, it should not be taught in a public school. That’s not to say that it may not be helpful for individual teens who come to it through church, home, independently; it’s just not a valid option for a public school setting.

    Re DARE – this seems like a panacea. Certainly it doesn’t seem to achieve reliable positive outcomes. As long as it’s used in our schools, it will be hard to get anything else put into place.

    Re Northfield’s drug and alcohol problem – I wonder whether an increase in drug/alcohol use among teens (assuming it’s real based on anecdotes from NHS students) is an indication of other problems in the community?
    For instance, are there more parents using/abusing alcohol/drugs?
    Are there economic factors associated with changes?
    What is access to treatment like in the area?
    Is this a symptom of a larger problem?

    Note that all these are worded as questions because I have no answers. However, my experience with drug/alcohol abuse suggests it’s often a symptom of much bigger problems and may not be easily solved without facing the larger issues. (I used to work with out-of-treatment drug users in Washington DC, a locus for some hardcore drug use.)

    Some other websites to consider:

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse has information on “Preventing Drug Abuse Among Children and Adolescents.” NIDA also has a site for science-based drug abuse education materials.

    The American Association of Pediatrics has a site with information they say parents should know about drug abuse.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers grants to help with prevention.

    March 11, 2008
  73. Jane Moline said:

    Whew–alot to cover in just a few days!

    I am an atheist and I am still a nice person and love people. I do good for goodness sake, not because I am ordered by God, or because I am trying to reserve my spot in heaven.

    I do not like the inference that I am inferior to the bible-pounders out there-or even to the non-bible-pounding Christians.

    Faith based recovery programs have helped addicts for years. The 12-steps include giving over your life to a higher power. The 12-step program works for many people. I do not want to argue with success.

    The students at the high school are, for the most part, not addicts, so they do not need immediate intervention. However, like Max, they are mostly mature and can judge for themselves if they are presented with the real thing or mumbo jumbo. If real recovering addicts want to tell their stories, I think kids will listen, and I think that if faith helped that addict, so be it.

    Northfield has a real heroin and other drug abuse problem, including under-age drinking. Why is it important to compare ourselves to other communities (i.e., our problem is no worse than somewhere else)? Why is that so important? We can sit and argue if we think 10, or 20 or 50 drug addicts make it a problem, but it is a problem for each of those drug addicts, their families, and their friends.

    We have limited treatment available. I know of a recovering addict who illegally acquires prescription drugs presccribed for addicts to aid withdrawal–because he cannot or is unwilling to find a doctor who can prescribe these medications–it is easier to buy them on the street. We have no half-way house, drop-in program or employment supervision and support for these young people. How can they get a job and rejoin society?

    Too much was made of Gary Smith’s method of advertising the drug problem and whether he was wrong or right. Ask any police about increased crime and whether they think it relates to drug abuse. Ask them what the parents say when they come down to pick up their precious child after the police have stopped a car load of kids in all black ninja dress carrying crowbars and other B & E tools.

    D.A.R.E. appears to be a waste of time and resources. Where are the parents who are willing to go to the school board and ask them not to waste time on this program? (Hey, my kids are not in grade school anymore, and I’m glad–time for someone with little ones to step up to the plate.)

    March 11, 2008
  74. kiffi summa said:

    Last Wednesday, from 4-6:30PM at the NCRC, a meeting was held for 11 organizations or gov’t units involved to report on their progress regarding substance abuse issues. The meeting was sponsored by the NF Union of Youth and the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use. If there was a reporter there, I was not aware of it.

    The point is, there are many, many people working on the ONGOING problems of substance abuse in NF, and there is some progress being made.

    It is not easy to turn around a situation which is not specific to NF, but societal.

    There was entirely too much hysteria last summer, and IMHO, that arises out of the denial which does not recognize that we have a problem, the same way all other communities have substance abuse problems.

    The groups at this meeting were: NF Union of Youth/Key, Mayor’s Task Force, HCI, Rice County Chemical Health Enforcement, and Provider Teams, Rice County Sheriff, NF Police,NF Mentoring Coalition, NF Public Schools, Rice County Attorney’s Office, Rice County Public Health.
    This is a lot of people and agencies, all working hard, with the best intentions.

    The professionals of the Rice County Chemical Task Force and their working relationship with HCI is effectively working on a more professional level. The Mayor’s Task force, professionals and citizens, and youth citizens seem to be attacking problems in a myriad of directions. There report was amazing in the diversity of areas where they are trying to make a difference.

    I must just interject here: THANK YOU to the Mayor for instigating this group, which has so many “feet on the ground”.

    The one group that I was dismayed to NOT see included in the supporting reporting agencies, was the NF Hospital. We need to have our city-owned hospital more involved. There has been some progress made in developing protocols for some parts of substance abuse issues; but I would like to see Our Hospital take a leadership role on the Medical side. Someone with more expertise than I needs to explain the details of what has been improved, and what needs to be done additionally.

    We have a lot of adult and youth citizen work ongoing. We have some spectacular, dedicated professionals in Rice County and NF, more in the social work/treatment area; let’s see if we can get the same level of involvement from the medical professional/hospital component.

    March 12, 2008
  75. Curt Benson said:

    Kiffi, you did a nice job of describing that meeting and you are right to credit Mayor Lansing for starting the Youth Alcohol and Drug Use Task force–and this group was initiated months prior to last summer’s commotion.

    I attended the Mayor’s Task force meeting last night and several topics discussed in this thread were covered. (BTW, anyone can attend these meetings.)

    First, the community’s efforts (especially regarding the Mayor’s Task Force) will be summarized in a guest column in the Northfield News soon. I think the article has been already been submitted. This should help dispel the notion that Northfield has done nothing about this problem.

    Also, Ms. Sands, high school health teacher, spoke to the group and answered questions about the chemical education efforts in our school. I asked her specifically about the “Know the Truth” presentation. They did a one class period presentation last fall, and are going to do the same this semester. It included factual information about drugs and alcohol and had some young people speak about the impact that chemical abuse had in their own lives. She said there was no religious component to their presentation at all.

    Northfield High School students receive one semester of Health Classes during their sophomore year. The alcohol/drug component lasts only three weeks–15 50 minute class periods. There are many other topics that must be covered in health class. I was impressed with Ms. Sand’s comments about their efforts to make the education relevant and effective.
    I think one should question if the time devoted to alcohol/drug education could be increased/spread out over more than just three weeks in one’s high school experience.

    Jane, I think you were talking about bupenorphrine in your comment #74. Members of the Task Force have been working hard to get someone in this community to dispense this drug. It requires special training, special governmental approval–but most of all it requires a local physician willing to do this. I’m not going to try to detail the efforts and dead ends that have been met in this effort, as I might get it wrong and I don’t know that it would be all that helpful. However, one task force member who has years of experience in treating chemically dependent people describes the drug as being incredibly helpful, close to miraculous–and she doesn’t seem to me to be prone to hyperbole.

    Both Kiffi and Jane have talked about the necessity of getting local help–half way houses, a treatment facility etc, and I couldn’t agree more. Getting a local physician to dispense bupenorphrine would be a good first step–and the sooner the better.

    March 12, 2008
  76. Scott Oney said:

    On the question of the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., most studies (and the few meta-analyses) have failed to turn up any significant and large positive effects of the program. D.A.R.E. was revamped in 2001, though, so studies based on pre-2001 data (basically all of the ones that the program’s detractors have in mind) may not be relevant. The new program may or may not be any better than the old one, but the difference should be kept in mind.

    D.A.R.E. has provided a source of humor over the years (“Drugs Are Really Excellent”), and vintage D.A.R.E. T-shirts perform consistently well on eBay. Besides this, though, the program has provided one amusing side benefit: Its mere mention is enough to evoke a strong response in many people, and threatening to bring it into the local schools is a fun way to provoke at least a few people into near hysterics. Why they care so much about a program they’re sure doesn’t work I don’t know.

    March 12, 2008
  77. David Ludescher said:

    Getting back to the questions Griff asked:

    Should policy makers other than the police department be involved in the decision-making process? The answer is simple – people who carry guns should never be policy makers; they should only be policy enforcers.

    The hysteria of 8 months ago was invented. We need to seriously question whether we want the police to be in charge of any drug education or public health program, when they can’t be trusted to give us honest and clear facts on the extent of the drug problem. The hysteria made it harder, not easier, to focus on the real problems.

    Let public health officials teach public health, and let the police teach law enforcement.

    March 13, 2008
  78. John George said:

    Brendon- Thanks for the accurate quote on what the Constitution says. It was late the other night and I was flying out really early the next morning. I don’t quite understand your statement, “… They are not to intersect in a purposeful manner…”, though. I’m probably just missing something, but I don’t know what you meant.

    Jane- Your statement,”…If real recovering addicts want to tell their stories, I think kids will listen, and I think that if faith helped that addict, so be it…” is all we Christians are asking for. I really appreciate the way you expressed it. There are success stories out there from secular, medical and 12 step programs. If one size fit all, then that is all we would have to present. We are dealing with individuals here, and each one of us is different. I think that putting all our eggs in one basket, be it D.A.R.E., or whatever, is just not wise. Giving young people the opportunity to hear all sides and make an informed decision is, IMO, part of education.

    Scott- Thanks for pointing something out about the original and current D.A.R.E. programs. Is there a link somewhere that simply differentiates the updated program verses the original? I’m curious about what was changed and why. And, I must confess, I don’t have a lot of time right now to read through multiple screens of information to try to ferrett it out.

    Kiffi- Absolutely great comment here,”…It is not easy to turn around a situation which is not specific to NF, but societal…” It is an uphill battle, IMO, but one we MUST engage in. One of the most important aspects to win a battle is defining a unified front. This is really difficult, since the war on drugs is guerilla warfare. The enemy (addiction) is not easily recognizable until it has begun to ruin a life. In a military exercise, it is not productive for the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force to be shooting at each other. We need to see parents, educators, law enforcement (government) and the medical field communicating with one another and working together. Meetings like the one held at the NCRC do just that. Now, what action plans could be made from the information shared? What steps can be taken to foster greater cooperation among these entities?

    March 13, 2008
  79. Julie Bixby said:

    To all those who may be interested, Bruce Morlan has some links to info regarding DARE at Politics and a Pint.

    We will be discussing this issue on Sunday, March 16th at 6pm at The Cow.
    Everyone is welcome.


    March 14, 2008
  80. Scott Oney said:

    John, regarding your post (#79), here’s a link that describes the new program:

    The new program was developed at the University of Akron, with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, so if you do want to search out any other information, this is the program you should be looking for.

    Incidently, D.A.R.E. was presented for years to the sixth grade at St. Dominic by members of the Rice County sheriff’s office; I’m not sure if it still is.

    And David L. (#78), you’ve raised a good point. The issue may not be whether the D.A.R.E. program “works” or not, regardless of what that might mean. Considering the half-baked performance of the Northfield police department over the past decade, they should probably focus more on getting their own house in order and leave our kids alone.

    March 15, 2008
  81. kiffi summa said:

    I’ve looked at the websites linked to here, and some others, and they provide a range of opinions and facts that may or may not be helpful. I frankly think looking on a bunch of internet sites is not conclusive without some personal, and sometimes professional, relevant knowledge.

    This I do know, when I was in about 5th grade, my Sunday School teacher used to have “science” sometimes instead of bible study. She would bring in jars of alcohol , and drop in various familiar foods to show what happened to them, raw eggs, raw beef liver, etc.

    When I told my parents about this, they spoke to the minister about it; I have no idea what they said to him, but my father was the pastoral relations chair on the church board, and friends with Rev. Firestone, so I’m sure he was listened to. My parents sat me down and said that regardless of whether or not pure alcohol would congeal a piece of raw liver, there was another agenda going on with the sunday school class teacher. They explained that her husband was a very serious alcoholic, and had died early, of cirrhosis of the liver.

    Why is this relevant? When I looked at the “new” DARE website, explaining the “new” 21st Century technology being used, i.e. images of brain function, I immediately thought of Mrs. ?, the Sunday school teacher. Just
    terrify the kids and they won’t do “it”, whatever “it” is.

    We need trained social work and medical professionals, as well as very involved parents, helping to make kids understand how to work through and resolve their problems, fears, concerns, and depressions. I truly believe many , many cases of drug use, or alcohol abuse, or any really self-destructive behavior, are “self-medication programs” for kids, OR ADULTS with problems that they feel alone in, and overwhelmed with; and that no one cares.

    **** That is in NO way meant to place blame on the user, or cause guilt; it is meant to say we must find ways to deal with these problems in a humanly supportive way, re-establishing strong self-esteem and trust in one’s self. Truth and facts are tools, not fear. ****

    March 16, 2008
  82. Jane Moline said:

    Kiffi and Scott, thanks for your comments.

    Scott, some of our beloved Northfield heroin addicts went through the DARE program at St. Doms.

    David L and others continue to pound the drum of the “hysteria” over last summers announcement of a heroin problem in Northfield.

    Denial Denial Denial. We have a serious heroin problem in Northfield, with many addicts and recovering addicts. We have a slew of drug abusers who have not quite made it to heroin-level.

    I would really like to start a movement where we wear a button that says “I know and love a recovering heroin addict” so that you all could see how many of them there are. Instead, everyone is too humiliated or embarrassed to admit it.

    That is not proof that there is not a serious drug problem in Northfield–only that Northfielders are human like everyone else. Quit spinning and start finding facts.

    March 16, 2008
  83. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, just a reminder on our guidelines here. Since David L. is participating in the discussion, you’re required to address him in the first person tense, eg, “David, I disagree with your pounding the drum…”

    Make sense? Can you try again?

    March 16, 2008
  84. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: I’m not denying that Northfield has an unusual drug problem. I’m just saying that I haven’t seen the evidence. If the police can’t be trusted to give us accurate evidence of the problem, how can we possibly trust them to give us the solution?

    March 16, 2008
  85. Jane Moline said:

    David: You are an eloquent and persuasive writer. I think your words are dangerous. You continually repeat your doubts about there being a heroin problem in Northfield. I am continually reading about Northfield’s “supposed drug problem” or “alleged drug problem” with other writers–who think they have to use this politically correct but completely inaccurate reference to what is going on because they see what you write and don’t want you (and some others) to jump on them about it. (Like, you know flame them only on LG it is more like toasted or mildly warmed.)

    Also, you and others continually harp on idea that Gary Smith was and is the problem.

    The allegedly hysteria-producing press conference is not the problem. Whether or not the police should have consulted the mayor, the city council, the city administrator, the chamber of commerce or their personal attorneys before they DARE to have a press conference is not the issue. (I am only a little sorry about the little sarcasm and the little pun in the above sentence.)

    I spoke to Gary Smith months before the allegedly hysteria-producing press conference, and he talked about specific problems and arrests. He believed the problem was heroin addicts because that is who they were busting. Oddly enough, that led to another problem. The busted addict willingly spilled their guts to the police in hopes of getting out of jail and back to their drug more quickly–the police had names that they could tie to specific crimes, but no other evidence than the addict’s testimony–tough to make their case with only that. (In real life it is not like TV, they don’t have a crime lab working around the clock with hairs from an addicts head that they can miraculously match to DNA left on a Blue Monday coffee cup.)

    Gary Smith said that he wanted help from the community and I believe him. I think a lot of the complaints about his method being grandstanding is mostly caused by jealousy and politics rather than real concern for the community, and some just want to deny that there is a problem.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to expect the police to solve a societal problem like drug addiction. Get real. They can’t stop drunk driving or wife beating. We have to work together.

    You want evidence. What would it take? You want a list of names of known addicts? Do you need to speak to them personally? Do you want to talk to their parents? If I told you names, would you believe me?

    We need to stop bickering about whether there is a problem and get to work. We need to demand that the school propose a curriculum that is NOT D.A.R.E.

    At Politics and a Pint tonight at the Cow, a NHS grad spoke about kids using drugs during the school day–when they left for lunch–getting high or shooting up–whatever they did.

    These kids are not going to the counselor and asking for help, they are hiding their problem because they won’t even admit to themselves it is a problem, and because they will be expelled from school. We don’t have doctors in town who can treat them through withdrawal. They don’t want to leave school, so they get by anyway they can.

    I would leave Teen Challenge up to the health teachers that have experienced their presentation. If is prostyletising, it is going to be out, and I know they will lose a lot of kids interest if they do that–I believe the health teacher if they say that the presentation is acceptable-and helpful– in the publc schools.

    I would like to see that teachers at the grade school level include curriculum on drug education. I believe these students have a relationship with their teachers that will make information presented more believable to students than police coming in and telling them what is bad for them.

    I think the police should establish relationships in the schools through regular appearances where they are not telling them what NOT to do. For some kids, having the police telling you what you shouldn’t do is like a starting gun and go.

    Anyway, Griff, I was only sarcastic twice and I am sorry about not addressing David directly in my first response but I hope I made up for it here.

    March 16, 2008
  86. John George said:

    Scott- Thanks for the link. I got a good overview of the program here, and there appears to be more info available. I’m looking forward to a little more research.

    Kiffi- You said,”…Truth and facts are tools, not fear. ****” This appears to be in reference to showing a brain scan of a drug user. This is a factual observation. How does this fact differ from other facts of the effects of drug use? Because it might make someone fearful of either getting into drug use or fearful because they are in the midst of drug use, does this make it wrong? I beg to differ. I think a little fear of the effects of drug abuse might be helpful. When a person burns their hand on a hot stove, they learn a respect (fear) of the stove, and this is healthy. And if they tell others to not touch the hot stove, and show them the evidence of what happens, then they help them to stay safe. I don’t think we all need to make the same mistakes and experience the same consequences to learn something. We can learn from others’ mistakes.

    March 16, 2008
  87. Jane Moline said:

    John–I know you have addressed your comment to Kiffi, but I want to throw in my 2 cents here. The DARE revision is just the same old same old–police telling kids that drugs are bad for them and that they will turn into drug addicts and die friendless with no money, and the revision is that you will die friendless with no money and your brain scan proves it.

    Kids don’t really listen to police telling them what is illegal and bad. (Or maybe a little scare works for a few, but then they figure out that they were the only ones scared.)

    You might be able to scare 2 year-olds into behaving, but it is not as effective in older children or adults–and it often back-fires.

    March 16, 2008
  88. kiffi summa said:

    John: I do not intend to get into a protracted philosophical discussion with you, as we unfortunately did on the “prayer ladies” thread. It is obvious we have entirely different world views, and the ramifications of that extends into other areas of thought.

    Challenging intelligent thinking minds, which youth/teens/kids HAVE… with propaganda techniques… does not work.

    If I show a kid an x-ray of a badly mangled knee and leg from a skiing accident, will she/he never ski again? Or never start to ski, if they haven’t?

    Healthy youth are characterized by their “bravery”, or at least their perception that they are not going to die YET. They indulge in all kinds of risky behaviors, alcohol, drugs, and walking high railings over railroad tracks!

    There is a natural, I might even say necessary, adversity between youth and authority figures. If there was not the fledglings would never leave the nest. They must determine for themselves the parameters of their adult lives; they must find their own limits and guidelines.

    I’ll probably get “yelled at” for this; I believe it is LESS painful to watch youth struggle to determine the rights and wrongs of the world, than to watch adults who have not learned to establish productive guidelines for society/ the common good.

    Lastly, on the Gary Smith/heroin conference issue… I said it then (Ye Gods, it was last July) and I still believe it: It was a last resort to get the community’s attention, after a long period of community, and school district denial.

    There is entirely too much that is covered up in this community; too much that is gossiped rather than spoken about, too much that is considered to be “making waves”, too much accusation rather than facts presented, and way too much reliance on the words of supposed “independent” experts.

    March 17, 2008
  89. Randy Jennings said:

    I have to weigh in on the skeptical side with respect to the hysteria over Nfld’s drug “problem.” I don’t think it is “denial, denial, denial” to insist — as David L. and others have — on verifiable data to prove the scope of a problem before we declare a community crisis.

    Yes, there are people — youth and adults — who struggle with problems of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Yes, as a society we should be able to help such people find effective treatment options. Yes, perhaps we should insist that our community-owned hospital allocated more of its staff time and resources to providing the best possible treatment program(s).

    But so far no one — including former chief Smith, the Hazelden researcher whose off-hand, unsupported comment about heroin use in Nfld was a trigger for the summer’s hysteria, the local newspaper, or proprietors of Locally Grown — have offered one shred of objective, verifiable data to support claims that we have a significant criminal drug problem. That would be the level at which I suggest it rises to community crisis. We don’t see such evidence in the public arrest records, and it is hard to see evidence of widespread criminal problems in property crime reports, which continue to show Nfld is a fundamentally safe place to live.

    I don’t think a list of names of affected individuals would advance the discussion. To make public policy on the basis of personal anecdote is a fundamentally bad idea. To use personal anecdotes as a point from which to explore how significant and widespread a given problem might be is great; but if, on exploration, the data isn’t there — which so far, it doesn’t seem to be — then perhaps the problem is an individual issue, not a community issue.

    Absent that data, Griff’s continued refrain (as stated above and many times before) that “our town definitely has drug abuse problems” is simply perpetuating hysteria over a serious, painful problem for what appears to be a relatively small number of individuals and their families. That may be an appropriate opinion for a citizen-blogger to express, but a citizen-journalist would have to provide some data to verify such a claim. (Have you ever put up such data or other evidence, Griff? If so, I apologize for not having seen it.) The real denial is in assuming that any individual’s problem can be extrapolated to represent a societal problem.


    March 17, 2008
  90. John George said:

    Jane- You are part of this discussion, and you can address me any time. As far as scare tactics working on ANYONE, if a person is going to be unreasonable and hedonistic in their life pattern, any communication is going to fail. You did touch on one thing here that I think is important. You talked about scare tactics working on two year olds. My experience with 5 two year olds is that they didn’t have the reasoning capacity to associate fear with consequences of their actions. I do believe that an understanding of authority and how it works in society is the same as the way it works in a family. That is established in a child during their second year. If a parent does not get on top of their natural rebelious bent by the time they are 3 or 4, they certainly don’t have any hope of getting on top of it during the teen years. But, that is a different thread entirely.

    Kiffi- We certainly understand where each other is coming from philosophically, so we for sure don’t have to go there in this thread. Your example of the person with the damaged knee from a skiing accident doesn’t quite fit the pattern here. Skiing, as opposed to drug abuse, is a very good means of exercise and honing of reaction skills. It does not, in itself, damage knees. Running into an object or missing a turn damages the body. Drug use, on the other hand, does verifiable physical damage in and of itself. I don’t think your coorelation is correct, and I wouldn’t want to use that reasoning to skip the presentation of, IMO, important facts. Also, are you sure that the reason this information is presented in the program is to produce fear? Seems like the young people need to be informed of the physical effects of drug use.

    Another facet that needs to be presented is the fact that there are laws governing the use of certain drugs. It is a fact that if a person is caught using a drug outside the law, that person will be subject to prosecution and incarceration, if necessary, under the law. IMO, there has been a pattern of letting young people off the hook without forcing them to face the consequences of their actions. I think this is what you aluded to, Kiffi, in your comment about this being a societal problem and not just NF. I think the law enforcement people have every right and responsibilty to present this informaton. We, as parents, need to reinfoce that side.

    One thing I’ve wondered about here is whether we should be looking for one comprehensive program that will be a magic bullet to the problem? As I proposed in my post #79, “… We need to see parents, educators, law enforcement (government) and the medical field communicating with one another and working together…” I still think this is important. If each part of a young person’s environment is giving them the same story, they might still rebell against it. But they will be hard pressed to use the argument that Sean pointed out in his post #4, “… if DARE lied about one thing, it must have lied about it all.” This observation is absolutely correct, from my experience. Young people are looking for consistency, and they deserve to get it. If we as adults cannot agree on what is being presented, then why SHOULD they follow us? IMO, this is a good reason for communication and agreement between the programs rather than sniping and division. If we were all made alike, one size could fit all. Since we are not, we need adjust our presentation without loosing sight of the goal- empowering young people to be able to live their lives free of addiction.

    Randy- I agree with you and David L. Show me some statistics. Without some facts, we will probably continue our blunderbus approach to drug education.

    March 17, 2008
  91. Jane Moline said:

    John and Randy: Your comments are dangerous as they attract all those that desperately want to deny that there is a drug problem and consequently put road blocks in the way of others addressing a community problem with drugs as they repeat the “talking point” that we are all suffering from mass hysteria.

    Requiring specific statistical support–that you define–is ridiculous. (Griff, keep reading because I state information that supports using the word “ridiculous”.)

    Claiming that information is not reliable UNLESS it is supported by statistics assumes that:

    #1 A professional hired by the city, i.e., the chief of police, is given to theatrics and making up information for the purpose of—-what? Getting himself a press conference and attention? Getting a better job in Kansas?

    Get real. This is real life–of course we could hire a consultant who will advise the city on whether or not the police chief should publicly comment on crime and whether or not he can be trusted should he make such comment. Said consultant, for an additional amount in the thousands of dollars will even list statistics and compare Northfield to other midwest college towns to show if we have more or less heroin addicts, statistically speaking.

    #2 A professional in the drug-abuse treatment field comments that she is seeing a lot of clients and requests for help from ONE location, Northfield, and you think, what–she is making this up and is hysterical and just wants to get attention so she can get a better job with, say the state of Minnesota?(Which, by the way, has always been jealous of Northfield and wants to take us down a few pegs.)

    We needed this skepticism when our president fed us lies about weapons of mass destruction.

    Our city officials should not have to do a statistical report on a problem when they want to announce that they are seeing an unusual situation and want the public to know about it. Gary Smith discussed the drug problem openly before the press conference, if you had asked him he would have told you why he thought there was a problem. There seems to be this consistent “shoot the messenger” or “the chief of police should not be making public statements about crime” theme to these arguments. Gary Smith is gone, lets move on.

    I really don’t have time to go back and read the News for the year before the press conference, but I remember that there was somethings about break-in crimes, and even that some of the discussion was about Meth addicts being to blame–or it was discussion on the street–to lock your car and your doors at home–especially your attached garage door–as there was an increase in break-ins.

    Gary Smith told me about the problem in arresting the drug addicts–which I spoke of in my earlier comment–that he knew who they were and what B & Es they were doing, but it was based on the statements of drug addicts–there was no evidence that could be used in court. He also told me about parents that would deny that their child was involved in drugs or any wrong doing, and that the police were just harassing their child. (One of those examples was a carload of young men dressed in all black–pants, turtlenecks and knit caps, with crowbars and other tools, on a warm May evening–out after curfew. When one dad came down he was irritated that Gary had bothered him.)

    We really don’t need a community policing program in the grade schools as much as we need community policing courses for adults. When we thumb our noses at the police, our kids follow right along.

    Also, the repeated claim that we were all hysterical last summer reeks of chauvinism. I was not hysterical–I did not see any hysterical people any more than I saw heroin addicts shooting-up on Bridge Square.

    Many parents understood the seriousness of the information they heard and many people became involved in addressing drug abuse in Northfield. Many people did not feel that it was necessary to have multiple arrests to prove to them that drug abuse was harming Northfield youth.

    Another group of people have continued to harp on the idea that drug abuse in Northfield is really not that bad, or not any worse than somewhere else, or not a real problem since they don’t know anybody and really not my problem since my kids are not addicts.

    So I will ask you Doubting Thomases all again. How many drug addicts makes it a problem that you will care about?

    The societal cost of addiction goes far beyond our reputation as an attractive city. These are real people we are talking about, not statistics. We surely need to love each other more, and work together.

    March 17, 2008
  92. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, I think we all share your concern, but there is nothing dangerous in reasonable conversation. And there is nothing dangerous or threatening in asking for information.
    Reports are filed regularly in nearly every community. The twice-a-year report on Hennepin and Ramsey counties was the place where the researcher mentioned “anecdotal reports of drug use in Northfield.” She didn’t say she had first-hand knowledge of it, and the mention was just a sentence in a detailed statistical report.
    To accuse everyone who wants some measurement of being in denial doesn’t seem fair. Reporting is commonly done and has been for years. It is the only way to determine how strong a reaction is needed. 50 addicts is serious, 500 may require an inpatient treatment center and 30 more cops on the street.
    If we have 50 cardiac emergencies a year, we may be able to rely on an ambulance to another hospital; if we have 500 a year we may be able to justify a cardiac center here. It doesn’t diminish the concern for the 50.
    Drugs have been a problem for decades. I had classmates and siblings who were dangerously stoned or drunk in school and at school activities. I had classmates who were institutionalized and some who died in car crashes and some who died after getting swallowed up in substance abuse. I had classmates and siblings who abused substances and “grew out of it.” My older cousins and siblings saw “Reefer Madness” and it didn’t stop them from experimenting.
    Drugs and alcohol are serious problems, tragic for some. We need to care about every single person, but we need to shape our programs and spending based on specific needs.

    March 17, 2008
  93. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: I read the Hazelden report; I reviewed summaries of the press conference; I reviewed all of Chief Smith’s blog postings; I went to the Middle School to hear the Hazelden reporter; I listened to her on MPR; I monitored all the police reporting; and I talked to my kids about the numbers.

    I would assume that one of those sources should have been able to verify the extent of the problem with data, not anecdotes. The reason they couldn’t and didn’t is because it was, at best, unverifiable, and, at worst, the numbers were an intentional fabrication.

    Unfortuantely, while the hysteria worked on many adults, it had the reverse effect upon many of the kids. When I asked my kids, their comment was that if that many kids were using, they would know about it. Following that was the obligatory, “Man, sometimes adults are so stupid.” – comment to which I had to agree.

    Here’s my theory: There had been 15-25 students who entered treatment citing heroin (and/or oxycotin) usage. Law enforcement and public health were fairly certain that the problem was largely confined to this group, so they were monitoring their activities fairly closely.

    When the story of usage broke in the St. Paul paper, and spread to Northfield via Locally Grown, the police chief didn’t want the public claiming that he wasn’t doing anything. (In fact, the police had known of the problem for up to 18 months.) Hence, the press conference. Then using common treatment statistics indicating that for every 10 users only 1 goes treatment, the chief “guessed” that there were up to 250 users at the high school.

    Think about how much time and energy could have been saved if the police chief had just ‘fessed up to the reasons why he called the press conference, and the actual data that he had. We could have attacked the problem with much more confidence and focus.

    Instead we are still getting reactions like the newspaper’s reaction. It commented that we have to implement DARE (a program whose effectiveness is seriously questioned) to address the concerns people have over the extensive drug problem.

    We should ask ourselves what the police had planned before the press conference, and why we can’t just go back to that plan. Obviously, if they had been monitoring the problem for up to 18 months, they must have had some thoughts about what would be effective. What did they intend to do before the press conference? What did they hope to accomplish with the press conference? And, was the press conference effective in achieving those results? If not, why not?

    Randy’s post (#90) is an excellent summary of why the numbers make such a difference.

    Griff: Would you like to take up Randy’s challenge of telling us what objective data you might have to conclude that our town definitely has a drug problem, and what the extent of that problem is?

    March 17, 2008
  94. David Henson said:

    I still believe Northfield should have a Gary Smith Days to celebrate officials who step up as individuals and say what’s on their mind – committees be damned.

    March 17, 2008
  95. John George said:

    Jane- I’m sorry if I aluded to the reaction to the drug problem as hysteria. I don’t think I did, but perhaps I wasn’t clear. I think there are two issues here. One is that we have a definite drug problem, but the efforts to address it have been dismal, at best. The second one is the whole issue of denial that there is a problem.

    I think there definitely IS a problem in NF. I only base this opinion on the general state of our society. What I would like to see is some hard facts about to what extent this has spread. At this point, I would have to say my opinion is definitely annecdotal. I would really like some statistics to prove me wrong or right.

    As to the other issue, addressing the problems we have, I have tried to speak into this. One of the issues I brought up in an earlier post, you have very eloquently stated in your example about the parent who was put out that the police called him down to pick up his son. This is where I believe education should start, and my desire to see an agreement among all the players involved with the young people. Does this make sense? Is this just “denial?” IMO, we are not dealing with the needier side of society, here. I think we are dealing with the affluent, and those people who should know better, but have not taken the time to teach their children better.

    Perhaps, in my association with the opinions of Randy and David L., you have lumped me into the “denial”, “hysteria” response crowd. I will not take offense at this, but I would like to defend myself against this accusation. I don’t think my advocation of cooperation and understanding between all the levels dealing with young people in general, and the drug problem specifically, is a dangerous course. I tend to be more pragmatic. If we have a program that isn’t working, lets at least fix it. If D.A.R.E. were thrown out, what would replace it? IMO, any program that is not honest about the effects of drug abuse, its consequences and does not hold the abusers accountable is really dangerous.

    This is another soap box of mine, but I will take liberty to climb up on it. For the last three decades, there has been a position in our society that crime, drug abuse, poverty, you name it, is all a product of the environment the particular person is in. What is believed is that if the environment is improved, then the behavior will improve. From my own observations, I do not believe this theory. I believe a person ends up where they do because of their RESPONSE to their environment, not the environment itself. There are many examples of people who have risen above poverty, drug use, etc., and have become very productive members of society, in spite of their environment. A good example of people sinking into these dregs in spite of their affluence is readily available in the lives of many Hollywood stars and sports heros. This is why I believe that the only effective program must have a segment that deals with the inner man, along with the physical needs. Does this cast me as one in “denial?”

    March 17, 2008
  96. Jane Moline said:

    David: I agree with what you are saying, and I agree with your numbers on those that have entered treatment at least once. I just don’t understand why we have to rehash last summer’s press conference. You, of all people (because of your profession), should have some idea of the problems that are happening in Northfield due to nasty hard drugs.

    Unfortunately, there are serious drug abusers who are still going to high school and want to continue going to high school. If they seek help through the school, they risk being expelled. If they want to stay in school, they still believe that they can fool us. And it probably works for a while.

    There are parents in the community who have no idea what their kids are doing or how bad their troubles are. There are other parents who have no desire to take their sad stories public about their heroin addicted children. Can you blame them? And, again, David, you are right about DARE. Why would we endorse or encourage a program that is proven to NOT WORK.

    The police are not the answer for having an impact on reducing drug use. They might be able to arrest more people, but they cannot prevent those same people from starting down the wrong road. And we can only hope that we, as parents, can have some positive influence on our kids.

    The police, the schools, the hospital and the doctors, cannot address this problem and expect to solve it–only the community working together.

    I am absolutely shocked that 25 people in Northfield would even try heroin, let alone use it enough to become addicted. I also think Northfield is different from other communities, and that is mostly good, but, in this one case, very bad for some people.

    One of the discussions at the Cow on Sunday night was “was there a drug abuse problem 100 years ago?” Yes. But it was a lot more difficult to get drugs, people were sometimes isolated from supply, but there were still lots of alchoholics–even in remote places. Drug abuse is an old story–how we approach it as a community can be a positive–or not.

    March 17, 2008
  97. Jane Moline said:

    John George:

    Sorry if I lumped you in , I did not mean too. It is hard to respond to all after I read through the blogs–I should probably take better notes and then write–and last night I had typed my whole blah blah blah and then lost it and had to blah blah blah again and probably baloneyed in there too.

    I agree whole-heartedly with your personal responsibility soap box. However, I am not an addict and I do not understand addiction–how can anyone be that stupid? Yet, they are and it goes on. (And, calling them stupid does NOT endear me to them.)

    I also agree with what you said about affluent parents–these are not poor kids spending hundreds of dollars on drugs.

    I was surprised when I read the account of the “annonymous” subject of the Carletonion article last summer, a former NHS student who is a heroin addict–he wanted to keep going to school and was taking other drugs so that he would not go through withdrawal at school–and he was busted for those other (also illegal) drugs. He wanted to stay in school. Can’t we use this desire to stay in school as leverage to get these kids clean? (He was expelled; he went through treatment, he currently does not use heroin.)

    Anyway, sorry to any one I lumped–I just don’t want to argue about how many drug addicts make a problem. I would like to see some discussion on whether we can do something to affect the problem (for the better.)

    March 17, 2008
  98. William Siemers said:

    Jane.. Is it true that a student would be expelled from NHS for simply admitting drug use? Not possessing in school…not dealing…not being high in school…but simply admitting use somewhere else? That would seem to be counter-productive and maybe even a violation of the ADA. Do school authorities take the same stand regarding alcohol use?

    I would not encourage the police to become involved in drug use prevention with either children or adults. Criminalizing drugs has not been an effective deterent to their use. The ‘war on drugs’ is a failed policy. Police have a vested interest in continuing this ‘war’. Billions of dollars are funneled to local law enforcement so they can arrest drug users. It is a policy that doesn’t work and never has. It works for the police, the dea, legalized drug sellers (alcohol and prescription) and people who build and run prisons. It does not work for the public, including users and addicts.

    What works to prevent use?…education and testing. Education that is fact based and realistic. Unjudgmental and reasonable. Testing that allow public and private organizations to set and enforce their own standards regarding drug and alcohol(?) use. For current users who want to quit counseling can help. Incarceration seldom does.

    Which is not to say that these measures will be 100% effective. We also need tolerance. People will get high. There is still a strong puritanical constiuency in this country that would have us believe otherwise…but it just ain’t so. Some people just like to get high and they will sacrifice everything to do so. Others might do it once in a blue moon and lead perfectly normal lives. And there are a whole lot more folks who fall between those two levels of use. As a society we need to come to grips with that. Sort of like we do with alcohol use. Are we filling up prisons with people possessing a wine stash?

    It is sad to see young people who ruin their lives with drugs. We should have realistic drug prevention programs in place in the schools to help prevent that from happening. But let’s keep the police out of it…they aren’t the solution.

    March 18, 2008
  99. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: In looking back at your original post on this thread, you asked two questions; I don’t think many people have given their opinions on your questions here, but instead given their opinions on the broader subject which does get everyone going. And rightly so…….

    But you questioned who should make decisions such as putting DARE in the schools, and where did those discussions occur.

    I don’t know that the city council has any role in making that sort of decision; I think not, actually. And considering the actions of the council, and interactions/lack of support for the police chief since last July, I’m not sure how their “weighing in” would have been helpful.

    You said you found no discussion about DARE in the school board minutes; I found that truly surprising, and I hope you were mistaken. But I would also really like to know where that discussion occurred. Certainly it is the responsibility of the school board to decide what “outside the curriculum” programs are brought into the school setting, isn’t it?

    March 18, 2008
  100. Curt Benson said:

    William(post #99), no,students are not expelled from NHS for merely admitting drug use. The school has a chemical abuse professional that works two days a week in the school system. She wouldn’t be very busy if all her clients were expelled.

    For students involved in Minnesota State High School league activities–sports, plays, music etc. the school follows the policies in the link below. The penalties for alcohol, tobacco, heroin and other mood altering substances are exactly the same. You can see that the penalty for first offenses are really minor–they miss an event or two. The MSHL knows that kids screw up, they want to keep them involved in activities.

    I don’t know exactly what the policies are for students not involved in activities, but I’m sure they’re not that draconian.

    I have some differences of opinion with the way the school system does some things, but they are surely not as clueless as some people say. Remember, in addition to trying to keep the students sober, they’re supposed to squeeze some learning in there somehow. (William, I’m not aiming this little bit of sarcasm at you. I just think too many parents expect the school to fix their children.)

    William, can you explain “testing” in some more detail?

    Here’s the link to the MSHL policy:

    March 18, 2008
  101. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I only mentioned the City Council since DARE involves the time of city employees, ie, police officers.

    Many of us, including me, criticized Chief Smith for not putting together a coalition of folks at his press conference.

    It would seem best for the School Board, the Mayor’s Task Force, and the Rice County Chem. Health folks to all be on the same page on both these two programs, DARE and ‘Know the Truth’. To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened.

    March 18, 2008
  102. Griff Wigley said:


    I think numbers do matter and the most credible source for me was Omada Behavioral Health’s Program Director Sarah Shippy who was quoted in the MPR piece last July:

    Many of the identified users have sought help through Omada Behavioral Health. Program Director Sarah Shippy says kids are selling within small cliques. They pool their money to buy heroin or steal Oxycontin from their grandparents’ medicine chest and snort it. “Those who are using heroin estimate that there are more than 150, so you know, who knows, whether it’s 100, 150, 200? Somewhere around there,” Shippy says. “I can identify probably 50 to 60 kids who are actively using, some on a daily basis, some on a weekly basis and some occasionally.”

    The other factor for me was hearing from both Hazelden and local law enforcement that what they were seeing in Northfield was not being seen elsewhere, esp. the involvement of upper middle class, high-achieving white kids. Some of my phone and F2F conversations helped to verify that, but as you rightly say, that’s just anecdotal. But as far as I know, Sarah Shippy hasn’t refuted this.  I  know, I know, if I was a reporter, I’d go interview her.  Maybe we should have her as a guest on an upcoming podcast.

    Also, I don’t think the community’s reaction has been hysterical but maybe my definition of hysteria is different than yours. Lots of conversation and meetings and planning and is constructive. Parents yanking their kids out of school or organizing vigilante groups would be hysteria.

    March 18, 2008
  103. William Siemers said:

    By ‘testing’ I meant the pre-employment/pre-engagement or random testing for (mostly) illegal drugs that is done by businesses and organizations. This has proven to be a fairly effective way to reduce drug use among the employed population.

    March 18, 2008
  104. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: That’s a fair answer to the question of numbers. However, I also recall Sara Shippey saying that the “kids” using generally are not in high school, and that the number included oxycotin users, occasional and serious. Why the public didn’t, couldn’t, and still isn’t getting accurate information is beyond me.

    Your response also begs the question of the best response and the best responders. In my mind, the credibility of the police department has been so destroyed that they are the worst public officials to point to the solution. Furthermore, people with guns should not be establishing policies, especially on public health issues. And, they certainly shouldn’t do it without talking to their bosses.

    There has been lots of conversation, meetings, and planning. But, to what end? To implement DARE? To have drug raids at the high school? To make the adults feel better that they are doing something? Isn’t the goal to reduce drug usage? What tools are we going to use to measure success if our best guesses are off by a magnitude of 2?

    March 18, 2008
  105. Randy Jennings said:

    Thanks for the effort to answer re: data and evidence, but I don’t think the quote included above (#103) justifies the view that Northfield “definitely” has a drug abuse problem. It is completely anecdotal, and not even consistent.

    Assuming you’ve transcribed her statement accurately, Ms. Shippey reports that “those who are using” estimate that there are 150 others. She then says there may be, “who knows…100, 150, 200?” And then she could identify “probably” 50 or 60.

    Maybe the records of how many hours she has billed the school district would reveal an ACTUAL number of unique high school students who have sought her services. Maybe that number is lower still. Or maybe the number of students who have actually been seen for counseling will corroborate her guesses. To quote Ms. Shippey: “Who knows?”

    The point is, this drug conversation has become a Rorschach test: we see in it what we bring to it, and since we have no objective information, there’s no common language with which we can agree to move forward. I think some facts would shed light, but right now we don’t seem to have any.

    March 18, 2008
  106. John George said:

    William- You said, “…What works to prevent use?…education and testing. Education that is fact based and realistic. Unjudgmental and reasonable. Testing that allow public and private organizations to set and enforce their own standards regarding drug and alcohol(?) use. For current users who want to quit counseling can help. Incarceration seldom does.” Hmmmmm. It appears you are advocating having everyone in each indivuidual organization set their own standards. Can we even have a social network with no standards? I don’t think so. There are reasons that speed limit signs are posted along the roadways. There are reasons that some intersections have traffic lights and others have signs. And there are reasons that laws have been enacted controling the use and distribution of certain drugs. This has been done by the legislature, not the police department. The police department is called “law enforcement” for a reason.

    Also, “Unjudgemental and resonable.” What do you mean by this? Is this another way of saying there should be no standards? This sounds like the new definition of tolerance that is going around these days- the concept that everyone is right and no one is wrong. This line of thinking is just completely illogical to me, but maybe I’m missing something here. Perhaps it is because I have spent the last sixty years of my life learning what standards I need to align myself with.

    You also said that the war on drugs is a failed policy. Well, so was the war on poverty that Lyndon Johnson started, if the continuance of poverty is an indicator as you say that continuance of drug use is an indicator. Just because we still have poverty, is that a reason to give up helping the disadvantaged? I hope not! So it is with drugs. This is a battle that will ever be fought and never completely won, because the roots of abuse are passed on from generation to generation. To do otherwise is to give up on the succeeding generations and let them go adrift on their own whims. This type of thinking, IMO, is dangerous and can lead to anarchism and the downfall of our whole society. We are a nation of laws, and they must be enforced to keep order.

    You also said, “…We also need tolerance. People will get high. There is still a strong puritanical constiuency in this country that would have us believe otherwise…but it just ain’t so. Some people just like to get high and they will sacrifice everything to do so.” I ask you to try selling this concept of “tolerance” to a business owner who depends on alert people operating dangerous equipment to produce his product. I would also ask you how many doctors who “just like to get high” we should be allowing to practice in our hospitals. I contend that there must be standards, and there must be mechanisms in place to enforce these standards. And there must be consequences for those people who refuse to follow the standards. IMO, anything else is lawlessness.

    To put this in a nutshell, you and I surely don’t think alike. (How is that for understating the obvious?) But do my arguments have any merit?

    March 18, 2008
  107. Too much to comment on, really…

    I will say that I fall firmly on the side of identifying the true scope of the problem as objectively as possible to help us shape our comprehensive policy, which is not to say anyone should deny day-to-day support of those currently seeking help while we await more resources or planning.

    Deal with the cases you have with the resources available at the time, but also discern the full spectrum and nature of the issue more accurately to serve as the basis for richer programming and assistance.

    I don’t think that can be termed “denial”, and it’s upsetting that this term is so easily thrown out there.

    Since this issue became public last July, it seems that people – at least those who have argued fairly – seem to be discussing this issue from either an emotional or a practical stance.

    This isn’t to say that those using emotional arguments are impractical or irrational, or that those using practical arguments are heartless and cold. Rather, these arguments offer two valid ways of approaching a more balanced and complete drug abuse reduction strategy. They should be part of one larger plan.

    We should work to show compassion and guidance toward those who have a drug problem and their loved ones, but we also need to form a more coherent, community-wide strategy that can be analyzed periodically to determine effectiveness.

    The reason I would like a more objective understanding of the facts behind Northfield’s drug problem is not to withhold help from someone who needs it now, but to develop a better system that will be able to continue helping all those who need it in the future.

    It’s impossible to know if the system you are developing – the practical application of your financial and human resources – is working without some baseline measurements and ways to compare the past to the present. Without it, you could actually be making the problem worse and remain unaware.

    That’s not denial; that’s responsible planning.

    March 18, 2008
  108. David Henson said:

    The Police Chief, knowing he would face criticism, stood up and stated Northfield has a big heroin problem. The issue of quantifying would seem to be a red herring as what would the community do differently, in real actions, were the number 60 verses 200. The Police Chief put the number at the high end and he is a professional dealing with a matter that dictates great confidentiality and would seem a better information resource that those quibbling over the numbers.

    Maybe the discussion here should be what is the community to do if the number is 60 and what is the community to do if the number is 200 ? I would guess the answers will not be all that different. I believe one answer is to demystify the issue of “narcing.” The schools, police, etc, should make clear that providing information on predatory drug dealers should be viewed no differently than providing information on pedophiles, rapists, etc. No moral obligation exists to protect these people. Then demystifying drugs in general so parents are free to discuss the matter without feeling they are betraying their own would be beneficial.

    The policy of kicking kids out of school activities is logically flawed as it leads to a “hushing up” of the problem. The policy also, in fact, does not work as it has been in effect proceeding and during a drug & heroin spike in Northfield. This is one of those policies that has adamant supporters, like the world is flat crowd from days gone by, despite no statistical evidence to support the belief.

    The police should also make it clear – to their own – and to the community – that any parent should feel free to bring to the police any contraband for analysis without concern that they may be charged. Parents need help knowing what is up.

    March 18, 2008
  109. William Siemers said:


    My point was that employment related drug ‘testing’ works to discourage drug use. If you want to be hired and keep your job you have to stay clean. A company has a right to establish such a system provided it is fair and non-discriminatory. They can set standards as they wish. Maybe they include all mood altering substances, maybe some are excluded. There are privacy issues involved, but I didn’t and won’t go into those. I just said that testing is an effective means of preventing drug abuse that does not criminalize users.

    You mentioned, as examples, equipment operators and doctors as two groups you would not want to see under the influence of drugs. Interestingly, equipment operators are almost certainly tested, while doctors probably are not.

    As was mentioned in post #105…drug abuse is a public health issue. It should not be a criminal issue. The US has more people( per capita) in jail than any other advanced nation. 10 times as many as some european countries. The vast majority are incarcerated because of drug related offenses. We can’t build prisons fast enough.

    John… Is this a system you support? We need to change these laws. This isn’t ‘giving up’…it is facing facts. People will use mind altering substances. They have been doing it for thousands of years. Some to excess…many more in moderation. We need to decriminalize drug use and treat drug abuse.

    March 18, 2008
  110. Griff Wigley said:

    David L wrote “There has been lots of conversation, meetings, and planning. But, to what end? To implement DARE? To have drug raids at the high school? To make the adults feel better that they are doing something? Isn’t the goal to reduce drug usage?”

    David, in today’s Nfld News, Sharon Henry, a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Drug and Alcohol Use, has a guest column titled Community celebrates year of hard work at meeting that answers some of your questions. (Curt Benson gave us a heads-up on this column in his March 12 comment #76 above):

    On March 5, members of the Northfield community gathered to celebrate a coordinated response to youth substance abuse in the community. Springing from concerns about drug use over the summer, many people participated in discussions of what our community could do better in helping youth. With the many suggestions generated, a grid with ideas was put together, including action steps that need to get done.

    March 19, 2008
  111. John George said:

    William- I just don’t buy the premise that if people are continuing to break the law, then the law must be broken and needs to be fixed. If we remove the illegal status if drug use, then what incentive is there for people to change? Most of the people I have dealt with who are trying to get free from drug use have had some type of intervention in their lives that got their attention. Most often, this confrontation could not have happened if there was not legal precedent to back it up.

    Take for instance the prohibition period. Many people contend that the laws against alcohol use pushed everyone involved underground, and it didn’t work. If you look at the statistics on alcohol consumption across the populace during this period, there was actually a decrease in use/abuse.

    As far as supporting the system, you bet I do. I still believe it is possible to change the behavior of people to fit the laws, rather than change the laws to fit the behavior of the people. If we keep lowering the standard, where will it stop?

    March 19, 2008
  112. kiffi summa said:

    David L: You made a comment back in #105, “In my mind the credibility of the police dept has been so destroyed that they are the worst public officials to point to the problem”…..

    Could you please elaborate? Is this with reference to Chief Smith? or is it since he left?

    I would think you, in your profession, would have “evidence” to say this, and would not make a rash statement. Can you shed some light on your meaning?

    March 20, 2008
  113. William Siemers said:

    John…I’m sure there was a decrease in drinking during prohibition…the law did make it a little more difficult to get a drink. But there were also big increases in crime, arrests and violence. Not to mention an overall acceptance and glamorization of lawlessness and thugs. Does that sound familiar?

    March 20, 2008
  114. John G, I am curious to know where you think that laws come from, and why they should not be changed. Since the political power is vested in the People, doesn’t it make sense that we the people should have some say on what matters the law takes up?

    It is my opinion that laws tend to come from self-interested politicians buying support from activist culture-warrior types. A lot of people have an over-active imagination as to how other people’s decisions supposedly affect them.

    Supporting a system in which people are ritually abused (i.e. incarcerated) in furtherance of your unshared definition of ‘their own good’ presumes a lot, IMNSHO.

    March 20, 2008
  115. Randy Jennings said:

    To David Henson re: post # 109 (and possibly this addresses Kiffi’s question about former chief Smith’s credibility): self-aggrandizing public officials have been known to distort facts to fit their own agendas. We’re in the middle of a two or three trillion dollar debacle in Iraq that has cost thousands of lives over just such misinformation, and we’ve spent nine months gnashing our teeth over similar claims here in Northfield. It makes a huge difference if there are 20-25 affected people versus 200-250. If it is a small number, we can provide treatment and support without draining community resources (time, attention, energy and money) that can be better spent serving the VAST number of youth and others who want and deserve more recreational, social and community service opportunities (not to mention more school time devoted to academics, instead of crisis-induced, drug awareness assemblies).

    Out of respect for the position, we owed the former chief of police a hearing on a matter of public health and safety, just as we should willing give the current and future chiefs an opportunity to raise community issues. Mr. Smith chose to make his claim of rampant heroin abuse flamboyantly. But… out of duty to the public, he owed us evidence to back his claim. He couldn’t produce it, nor has anyone else. In this day and age, a healthy and respectful skepticism about public officials’ pronouncements seems like a good idea.

    I really don’t understand why there remain a few doomsayers who insist on perpetuating the claim that the community has rampant drug problem, but who can’t provide any evidence to sustain the claim. What do you get out of this? For the umpteenth time, yes, some individuals have abuse and addiction problems. But that is NOT automatically a characterization of a community, nor a community’s collective problem.

    I also don’t understand the demonization of drug USE. My kids see me take my daily dose(s) of caffeine, they noticed that I had a beer with dinner a couple of nights ago, and let’s not even start on my daily fixes of ibuprofen. They are all drugs. As a society we’ve condoned their responsible use, but taken irresponsibly, each can be dangerous. Each is certainly addictive. I am most emphatically NOT arguing that heroin can be similarly used, but I also don’t think that demonizing it will get us any farther than Prohibition did for curbing alcohol consumption (whether or not you think that was a good idea), or that Reefer Madness did for curbing the use of marijuana. Bill Clinton may not have inhaled, but plenty of other people did, and they remain productive members of society.

    Maybe we’ll will soon discover or unlock a genetic trait that makes some individuals more susceptible to addiction than others. Maybe that knowledge will enable society to change its moralistic attitudes about addiction, and instead focus on a more rational understanding of how to predict, avoid, or treat addiction. At the moment there are people who need the best treatment our current knowledge will allow. But it appears to be a small number. Let’s respond appropriately.

    March 20, 2008
  116. Curt Benson said:

    Randy, this recent Newsweek article addresses some of the issues in your last paragraph:

    Randy, do you really see any “draining community resources” regarding this issue? The most expensive item I’m aware of is the DARE program, which takes local police time for training and delivering the program. If the NFPD gets it’s own dog, that would be expensive too, but as Roger Schroder has pointed out, the dog would be capable of more than sniffing out drugs. (I’m not a dog fan, just pointing out the facts.)

    The school system has doubled the hours of their drug councilor, from one to two days/week. They said they had decided to do that prior to last summer.

    The rest of the community response seems just about free–or at least no more expensive than before Smith’s press conference.

    Northfield supports many types of activities for our youth. Check out all of the time and energy poured into the private sports clubs, the Key, YMCA, library, etc. It makes sense to support our young(and old) with problems too, including chemical abuse. I don’t see that this type of support is out of balance.

    March 20, 2008
  117. Britt Ackerman said:

    Wow, reading all of these comments is eye-opening. It seems as though we have posters with vastly different opinions and perceptions of the issue. But really, taken as a whole, this discussion centers on a common theme. And everyone seems to have a common goal.

    Broadly speaking, everyone who has posted here clearly feels strongly about Northfield. Not the city as a geographical location, per se, but as a community made up of individuals. When I refer to “Northfield” here, I am referring to the people who make up our community.

    And everyone who has posted here can get on the same page with our common feelings about Northfield. We want what’s best for our children. We want what’s best for Northfield. We want to move forward, progressively, in improving Northfield’s dynamic, health, and yes, even public relations.

    To those ends the commonality appears to end. We bicker about the extent of the problem, we quibble about objectivity and statistics, and instead of taking action we devote our resources to blamestorming. That too is a naturally human reaction…let’s point fingers on who is doing what and saying what (or not) and argue about who is “right” in their analysis of the danger of drug use.

    This discussion started with a post about DARE and its place in our public schools considering its measured lack of efficacy. The discussion has developed this way because people feel strongly about drugs. Some make decidedly moral judgments about drugs in general and drug users in specific. Others feel that the drug issue is not a naturally moral issue. And here is the root of our divide on the topic.

    There are opportunists who may use Northfield’s drug situation to pet the eagle. And there are moralists who use Northfield’s drug situation to exemplify what is wrong with the greater nation. The rationalists and the pragmatists point to the lack of objective data–or argue that objective data is not necessary to understand the issue.

    Regardless of which category each of us may fall in, we have the common objective–to protect, preserve, and promote Northfield’s best interests.

    So the question becomes…how do we do this? Do we help by developing endless committees? Do we spend large sums of money on consultants who can’t possibly understand Northfield because they are not of Northfield? Do we encourage a police state in our schools and crackdown on the small time users who push to support their habit? Do we take a very public stand in a very public way to bring the issue to light in the press?

    Yes, we do, and have done, all of these things. And we disagree about the right approach. But surely we can agree there is no singular right approach. We can’t jail all users and we can’t end drug use. We can’t solve the timeless problem of addiction. We REFUSE to ignore the situation and CHOOSE to express our individual takes on the answer.

    Whatever your personal opinion on the matter, as a whole Northfield is doing the right thing. Some people stand up loud and proud and voice their concerns and damn the backlash. Others read the entire Hazelden report and review all of the objective information to become fully informed. Still others go home and have frank discussions with their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

    It seems like we’re heading in different directions at the same time with this. And that’s fine. Because we could be going nowhere at all. We could be doing nothing and saying nothing. It’s the action that helps Northfield–whatever the action may be. Because although DARE won’t keep kids from experimenting and a press conference won’t keep kids from using, it is the discussion which keeps these kids thinking. Which exposes them to analytical, rhetorical thought. Which encourages everyone to critically analyze the information presented using their individualized tools and perspectives.

    And everyone, always and forever, will disagree about the answer and even the problem. But as long as there is disagreement there is not apathy. And when there is not apathy in our community then our children will learn from watching this discourse how to have their own discourse. They will develop into thoughtful, informed, and active members of this community. Their generation is not likely to develop a solution. We’ll never “fix” the drug problem in this town or this country as it is simply an issue endemic to humanity. Genetically, behaviorally, biologically, some people are predisposed to addiction.

    But by talking, arguing, and even posturing, we help the community in general and the next generation in specific. Think, talk, write, act. The common goal in Northfield is to fight apathy and deter nihilism; to those ends we are all on the same page.

    March 20, 2008
  118. Anne Bretts said:

    It just seems to me that if you really care about the people who have addiction problems, you wouldn’t want to prolong their suffering by wasting even a minute in programs and approaches that don’t work. So it seems that diligent monitoring and measurement of all the approaches and their impacts would be very important, and not something to ridicule.
    I think the question of statistics isn’t raised to hinder help to those in need but to show sincere concern that the right people get the right treatment as efficiently as possible.

    March 20, 2008
  119. Curt Benson said:

    Hey Britt, that was a great post but ….”pet the eagle”. Huh? Even google yields no definition.

    March 20, 2008
  120. I think I know a certain young attorney who’s on Ecstasy…

    Just teasing you, Britt. Way to focus on the positive. The positive and the true.

    Eagle petting and all…

    March 20, 2008
  121. kiffi summa said:

    Britt: Great post *********!

    I really applaud the idea that the discussion is so beneficial if it just banishes apathy…….Let everyone go in different directions, at least they are not standing still.

    Once again I want to thank all the support groups who came together for the BIG MTG. No matter to what degree each group is effective, all are involved. A special thanks to Kathy Sandburg and the rest of the professionals; I don’t know all the names, but I appreciate all the effort.

    March 20, 2008
  122. David Ludescher said:

    Britt: You forgot the disclaimer that your firm represented the Chief of Police right after his press conference. (I still can’t figure out why he needed a lawyer if his numbers are accurate.)

    As Randy points out (#116), we still haven’t figured out if we are trying to solve the problem he defined or a different (in scope) problem. I think that our kids were much more critical; they “know” there is a drug problem; they “know” that it isn’t as bad as Chief Smith said; and they aren’t going to trust the police to give them accurate information, if they ever did. They certainly aren’t going to trust the police to give them the solution – and neither should we.

    The assumption that the more we do the better, is wrong. If we put efforts into DARE, and DARE is ineffective, then we are taking a societal placebo, instead of taking real medicene.

    I think that the best way we can show that we care is to challenge our public officials. It keeps all of us honest.

    March 20, 2008
  123. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy/David L,

    Interim Police Chief Roger Schroeder had served 10 years on the South Central Drug Task Force unit (commander of it for 7 years) when he took over from Chief Smith. Roger said to the Council on July 17 (blogged here with audio):

    “I came to the conclusion as the Commander that… I believe that there’s a heroin/oxycontin issue here in Northfield that seems to be specific to Northfield. What I’m basing that on is I’ve talked to the Commander in Dakota County, I’ve talked to Lakeville, and every Drug Task Force I’ve talked to, there’s 22 in the state, will have some contact with heroin, that’s just part of the drug culture, but in our particular region, it seems like for whatever reason, we have what I believe to be a higher than average use of heroin and oxycontin.”

    So we have 3 people — both a Hazelden researcher (who I’m still pissed at) and an interim Chief saying we have a unique problem, along with a treatment counselor providing some rough numbers that indicate it’s a lot more than a small handful of youth.

    I don’t think you’re being unreasonable to question their numbers and ask for more data/facts.  But I don’t think it’s fair to accuse me of “perpetuating hysteria” because I’ve come down on the side of believing these 3 people’s perspectives in my informal comments. (And I ask you both again to give examples of what you see as ‘hysteria’ here in Northfield…  reactions that are/have been destructive or that are making the problem worse.)

    My take is that the community’s response thus far overall has been generally substantive, thoughtful, and measured. I raised the issue about DARE because its adoption didn’t seem to fit that pattern, that it’s being implemented haphazardly.

    March 20, 2008
  124. John George said:

    Britt- Great post. You are correct, IMO, that we need a uniter in the situation, not more dividers.

    Nathan- You seem to have a very desparaging opinion of laws and law makers. I personally do not believe in moral relativity. There is a moral law that has been around for a few thousand years that does still work and brings order to those societies that embrace it. Many of the basic tenets of our constitution are based on this law. If you look at the failed societies throughout history, you will find that they deviated from this law. If you don’t believe that, then I guess you may, but I have not found any successful society that allows the level of freedom of life and human rights as our society does that is based on another set of laws. If you have an example, I am open to looking at it. China is the rising world superpower, but the order there has been engrained under the iron hand of a dictator. And it seems to be aparent that with the rise of business opportunities, the rise of greed follows right along, not to mention the violations of human rights and the devastation of the environment.

    The greatest concern I have with some opinions about drug use is the legalization of their use. It seems the reasoning behind this is if we can’t get all the people to follow the laws all the time, then we may as well chuck the laws. I believe this is dangerous and self defeating. I believe we the people can elect a government that will take seriously the establishment of order in our society and the enforcement of that order. If we were all inherently good, then we wouldn’t need laws. It is evident by the various crimes in all levels of society that this is not true. That being the case, I don’t believe that anarchy is a very safe way to go. Crime doesn’t seem to be in just one demographic of our society.

    Back to the thread, is anyone still behind having open communication among parents, educators, law enforcement, the medical profession and the youth? It still seems to me that we all have to be working together on this issue to see any headway.

    March 20, 2008
  125. Randy Jennings said:

    I attended that meeting when Interim Chief Schroeder spoke. He seems quite reasonable and non-inflammatory. But what you’ve left out of your quote is that he also offered some ACTUAL NUMBERS regarding heroin and oxy-related arrests in the South (or South-Central?) Drug Task Force area. The drug task force work area runs from here to the Iowa border. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but my recollection is that it was an average of 2-3 arrests per year, in the entire area. I remember correctly, there was a “spike” up to 6 arrests in 2005 or 2006, but that year there were NO arrests in Northfield. The headline could have read “Heroin Arrests Double in Drug Task Force Area.” That would have been true, but misleading. An equally true, but perhaps equally misleading headline could have been, “Northfield’s Criminal Drug Problems Negligible.”

    So, in an area in which the police are charged to protect and serve, there appears to be no evidence to support a criminal problem that one might consider a community issue. Therefore, no headlines warranted.

    I would, though, respect Mr. Schroder’s gut instincts (and career experience) and thank him for bringing his observations and concerns to other parties in the community (school, social services, hospital, etc.) who are in positions to further explore them and take pro-active measures to address them. His style, unlike the former chief’s, seems low-key and likely to be productive. I agree with David L. that tasking the police with drug education is the wrong strategy.

    In my mind, the Hazelden researcher has zero credibility on this issue. You and others continue to cite her comment without also clarifying that she did NO research in Northfield, the report to which her comment was attached was specifically about drug use in the metro area (NOT including Northfield), she has provided NO evidence to support her observation, and that she may have been basing her remarks on conversations with your other two informants, former Chief Smith and the school drug counselor. So there is a very real possibility that your three sources of “evidence” are a closed, mutually-reinforcing loop.

    The “hysteria” is in the language you and others use to describe this situation. When you choose language like “the community definitely has a drug problem” or the newspaper editorializes that Northfield is “gripped” by heroin (there might be a pun there that I hadn’t considered before), and locally grown posts are picked up by people who don’t understand the personalities in this community, it creates a very distorted sense of what kind of town we are.

    The message to the outside world is that we have a drug crisis, which by any objective measure appears to be demonstrably false. When that misrepresentation causes people to reconsider moving here, parents to reconsider sending their children to St. Olaf or Carleton (or to ask that their son or daughter not be assigned a roommate from Northfield), or a business decides not to consider Northfield a viable location, we are all harmed. All of those are anecdotal examples of things I “believe,” based on face to face conversations, have actually happened in the past eight months. That’s the same level of “evidence” on which you base your claims, but frankly, such anecdotes don’t prove anything. They provide clues about an issue to consider, not a definitive headline.

    I’ll stop using the term “hysteria” until there is chaos in the streets, if you’ll stop claiming Northfield “definitely” has a drug problem until you can prove it with verifiable data. Agreed?

    March 21, 2008
  126. David Ludescher said:


    Randy cited some negative consequences. Let me give some more.

    1. Discord and lack of trust between the police department and the school district (and just about every other public organization).

    2. Discord between the Police Chief and the City Administrator over the proper role of the police chief, and, shortly thereafter, the still pending allegations made by the Police Chief against his supervisor.

    3. Local and national media spreading the unsubstantiated numbers throughout the state and the country.

    4. A complete lack of accountability and verification from any responsible public official. i.e. Who is in charge of this stuff?

    5. Loss of the police chief without a permanent replacement.

    6. And, in my opinion, the first domino in the City Hall problems.

    If “thoughtful, substantive, and measured’ respones have been put in place, are we able to measure any reduction in drug usage because of these measures? How do we know that any of the measures taken are any more effective than the DARE program?

    Capt. Schroeder’s response of a higher than normal use is a far cry from the numbers that Chief Smith offered, and is deserving of a completely different response. Without knowing where we started, how do we know that we have made any progress?

    March 21, 2008
  127. Anne Bretts said:

    Thank you, Randy, for that clear and reasoned comment.
    The 2007 reporting year is over, so it should be simple to compile the arrest and investigation records and court records and drug task force records related to drug use. Surely the task force would have records that outline the scope of their work and their progress in dealing with it.
    There also are a limited number of treatment centers in the area, so compiling the number of people from a given zip code seeking services should be fundamental. That information, combined with statistics from outpatient and support groups should make it very simple to generate a fairly accurate baseline without compromising individual privacy…I just don’t understand the resistance…

    March 21, 2008
  128. David Henson said:

    Randy – your concern over all the negatives outcomes from Northfield getting attention for a spike in drug use shown in prior posts display forthrightly a personal bias toward public acknowledgment of the problem. With that bias in mind saying “we need more hard data ?, where’s hard data ?” seems like denial.

    Our Police officials didn’t just pop up and look in the mirror shaving one morning and think, ‘hmmm a drug scare might be nice.’

    A point in time exists where enough demand has been created for a drug like heroin in a community that a dealer network (or market) forms to supply users and (more dangerous) to create additional demand through promotion. The arrest records may not be for heroin but highly addictive drugs in a community lead to theft spikes etc which are tip offs to the Police that something has changed.

    The Police Chief knew that public attention would raise public awareness hopefully making Northfield an unattractive place for the drug trade – and an attractive place for all those activities that are your vision of Northfield. I’m not sure if hard data exists to prove his method worked but my estimation would be that awareness like that displayed in this blog and the energizing of community resources have had a positive effect.

    March 21, 2008
  129. Randy Jennings said:

    David H,

    I have a bias toward verifiable data as the basis for action in matters of public policy. Neither drug-related arrest records or petty crime statistics confirm the scale of the problem alleged, by an order of magnitude. As a local economist observed last fall, thefts of iPods and cell phones from the high school won’t generate the millions of dollars required to feed the drug habits former chief Smith described.

    I don’t understand why asking for evidence is considered denial. The burden of proof — in this and any other public issue — is on demonstrating that there is a problem, its nature, and its scale before we commit public resources to solving it or before we tarnish the reputation of a community. (And I’d like Northfield to have a reputation for forthrightly and rationally addressing its problems, which is how I see the efforts of the task force Kiffi acknowledged back in post #122.)

    All former chief Smith did was shout, “Ready, Fire, Aim!” Since he offered no data to demonstrate the scope of the problem, there can’t be any data to show if his “method” worked. All we know for sure is that he got major media exposure and he is now employed elsewhere.

    March 21, 2008
  130. Britt Ackerman said:

    Here’s one thing I can say about the numbers, or lack thereof. When this story broke, I was shocked to read somewhere that there had been “zero indictments” for heroin-related crimes in Northfield, so the problem couldn’t possibly be as big as the Chief stated. See this LaCrosse Tribune article.

    (This isn’t the article I read, because I don’t read the Lacrosse Tribune, but the article I read was similar.)

    That statement is simply misleading to the public. Whomever originally made it must have intended the statement to be misleading. An indictment is very, very rare in Rice county. Almost all crimes in Minnesota are prosecuted by complaint; particularly non-serious felonies and non-person crimes. David L., when is the last time you heard of a grand jury being called up in Rice county? I can think of only 2 occasions in the last 4 years. Neither was for a case involving possession or sale of controlled substances.

    At the time that statement was made, I had come into contact professionally with no less than seven local kids who were in trouble because of their heroin/oxy use. And that’s only me, only one defense attorney. You hang around the courthouse enough, like I do, and you quickly come to understand the scope of the problem.

    This personal experience of mine, therefore, is merely anecdotal evidence of the extent of the problem. We’ll NEVER nail down any firm statistics on this topic. The guesstimates are based on hearsay–the best estimates made by those directly involved either as users, or policers, or counselors.

    Of course, the potential for objective independent assessment is lacking due to the anecdotal nature of these accounts. That’s the crux of the problem here. Randy J., in his post #130, is expressing his unwillingness to base an opinion on such evidence, and I can respect his position.

    I’ll choose to draw my own conclusions from my own personal experiences. There is a problem here, and it is getting better, and it’s getting better because we’re all more aware. Parents, educators, law enforcement, counselors, even kids are more aware.

    So I don’t care if the numbers were wrong because that issue is now moot. And I don’t care if the APB picked up on the press conference and spread word of our little berg nationally. It happened, everyone but us has forgotten about it, get over it, period.

    Discord between city officials and the council and our local government? Deal with it. Do your jobs. Get over yourselves. Move forward and not backward. Be professionals.

    March 21, 2008
  131. Britt Ackerman said:

    Whoa, Griff, can you fix my HTML error?


    March 21, 2008
  132. Griff Wigley said:

    All fixed, Britt. No charge.

    March 21, 2008
  133. David Ludescher said:

    Britt: What evidence or measurement do you have that the problem is better?

    Griff: Are the solutions also measured in anecdotal terms?

    I, like Randy, think that we need objective data on the problem as well the proposed solutions. When public officials fail to provide objective data, it almost always means that they don’t have it or it doesn’t exist.

    March 21, 2008
  134. kiffi summa said:

    I wish that some of the people who are asking for hard fast #’s here would put this into some hard fast perspective. Who do you know who comes forward to put their names on a tally sheet for each specific offense, misdemeanor or felony they have committed? Have you gone to Bridge Square and signed your name on the public tally sheet every time you went 10 miles over the speed limit?

    We are NOT going to ever have any exact tally, and with all due respect to those who insist we have those numbers, I just don’t agree that it makes any difference. Do we know there are heroin/oxycontin and other serious drugs in NF? YES. Do we, as a community want to provide all the help we can? ( Well, we say yes, but in truth, there is a lot more that could be done; and the hospital could be playing a much larger role. ) Yes, is the answer, as long as someone else does “it”.

    But there IS a lot of positive outreach, and serious work being done, and if you don’t believe it, the next time there is a big public meeting of the provider groups, go to it, and ask questions. And if you can, offer to work with some group like the Mayor’s Task Force, or mentor a kid, or tutor at the ALC, or do something that will not only help, but will let YOU know more about what is being done.

    Northfield is not Brigadoon; we live in the real world. The real world uses drugs of all sorts, from sugar to caffeine to chocolate to nicotine to alcohol to pot to LSD to Crack and on and on and on. And there are mind-drugs as well; I’ll go no further with that.

    Isn’t this thread over with, Griff? what more is there to say? If I throw away all the wine, vodka, and even Victor’s favorite Tequila will it cure the
    drug problems of the world?

    I know, I’m sounding really frustrated and crabby now, but I think there is a decided lack of realism in many POV’s. Our world has problems; always has, always will. We just happen to be a big group of successful (? ) mammals walking the planet right now; maybe we’ll do ourselves in, and the insects will take over at last!

    March 21, 2008
  135. Anne Bretts said:

    Britt, I don’t understand.
    If there are criminal complaints, there are by definition, records. There are records of arrests, records of jail populations and treatment center populations and records of drop-outs and records of student referrals. There are records of all kinds, that when taken together, can provide a reasonable baseline of information. There are ways to flag the files to show a drug connection, even if the charge isn’t directly drug related. How does the drug task force justify its funding, record its progress and determine what additional resources are necessary? I can’t believe the state and federal government would finance grants for rural drug task forces based on a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right.
    Much larger counties, with transient, multi-national populations, are able to monitor drug use, so how is it so hard here, where most users are known by name?
    Drug law enforcement includes money for patrols, undercover operations, prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers. So what happens when we spend all our money on patrols and end up with too few people to monitor those on probation?
    This discussion, which has gone on since last summer, just keeps going in circles. Seems that for all the concern over doing something for every single user, there is no interest in knowing whether it works.
    That sounds like denial.

    March 21, 2008
  136. Wow, Britt, lead them in with sunshine (comment #118), then **smack**!

    Britt, because we can’t “nail down” any firm statistics does not mean we shouldn’t try. Statistics on these issues are compiled all the time. As you know, they contain a margin of error to indicate that you cannot, indeed, can never, nail the number down exactly.

    This doesn’t mean we should only rely on anecdotal evidence. One of the reasons to be very wary of anecdotal evidence is the well-known self-reporting bias. My master’s research into alcohol use and abuse showed that people consistently overestimate (by significant percentages) the amount and prevalence of use by others, due to both increased contact with other users and the desire the justify and normalize their own behavior.

    In other words, users and abusers of a substance, while they give great qualitative support and provide invaluable information in many ways, are notoriously unreliable as a source of accurate reporting of larger community use.

    Though you can say things are “better” now because of awareness, you have no way of verifying that because there is nothing against which to compare it. Progress cannot be measured without some baseline.

    I think people who are asking for that baseline are not looking to delay action, but rather to ascertain how many resources to marshal. It becomes a question of scope of the response.

    As I said in comment #108, both approaches, the emotional / anecdotal and the policy / objective deserve attention and have merit. I was disappointed that you took this tack, sharply delivering a slap about the inviolability of your observations, and admonishing others to “get over it” and “deal with it”. I find such words an ill fit to your final command to “Be professionals.”

    It is responsible as a community to attack the problem on the personal, anecdotal level; likewise, it is responsible and sensible to seek more accurate information and statistics to formulate effective policy. Ideally, both positions would work together, but the simple act of continuing to seek objective data on a problem is most definitely professional – not a problem that its proponents need to “get over”.

    As you said, Britt, the simple act of having the discussion helps the community, raises awareness, teaches children about civic engagement, etc… However, being dismissive to those who are merely seeking sound numbers on which to plan effectively – to “move forward” in your terms – just serves to create more defensiveness among those who might otherwise agree with you. Indeed, as much as I agreed with your beautiful, optimistic words in #118, I bristled at the scornful tone in #131.

    March 21, 2008
  137. Jane Moline said:

    Regarding Curt Benson commenting on students NOT being expelled. Ask the students. They are telling me they were given the choice of being expelled or quitting school.

    That is why there are few drug users in school–they were kicked out. I have been told by a school board member that this is not so. The kids who failed to graduate report otherwise.

    I think that the school should report to the school board every MONTH on how many students have quit school, been expelled or otherwise failed to complete their education and why. (I think this should be monitored whether there is a drug reason or not.) I do not trust the school administration to report these numbers accurately–it is a record of failure rate. I believe everyone in this community would be shocked at the high numbers of drop-outs in our school district.

    I agree with Britt in #131. We will not be able to put together a complete statistical analysis of the problem. Drug addicts are not proclaiming their problems from the street–parents are not turning in their kids, and kids are not giving up their friends or even enemies.

    Yes Brendon, we can try to get more statistics. But I believe the school is hiding the information and have been purposefully misleading–specifically Supt. Richardson in claiming that there are not addicts in the school (well, yeah, since they were all expelled or convinced to quit.)

    People are not usually arrested for using heroin. If they are caught on a B & E, they usually don’t claim that they are heroin addicts so it can be noted on their arrest record. Plus, just try to catch somebody who is breaking and entering, or stealing things out of cars. Good luck. Because that is what its going to take short of a private security force, extreme alarm systems and a snitch network.

    The police may be able to indicate the problem, but they are not the solvers. We are it. (Sorry for the bad english.)

    Randy–I don’t know what level makes it a drug problem worthy of community resources for you. I know some of these kids (and some of them are in their 20’s now–this has been going on for a while.) I think it is very serious.

    Drug addicts are like drunks. They try to hide their “problem” and lie, even to themselves, that they have it under control. They do as much as possible not to get caught, as it interrupts the flow of their fix. Their hiding it makes it hard to count them, and their families hiding it out of social shame makes it worse (because it sometimes interferes with their getting help.)

    We can hire a consultant to spend time reviewing with the police, drug treatment folks, etc. to tell us the true numbers of our drug problem, or we can rely on professionals who are using their experience. If you think it is worth hiring the consultant, get on the band wagon to drum up support so that we can get going. I am willing to trust, to some extent, the police, Sarah Shippy, and other professionals.

    IMHO lets not waste time with D.A.R.E.

    March 23, 2008
  138. John George said:

    Jane- As far as the reasons for students dropping out of school, since they are minors, is this information that can even be public? Just wondering. There are a lot of privacy laws surrounding minors. I agree, it would be helpful to know what is behind this trend.

    As far as hiring “professionals” and “consultants”, isn’t this taking the responsibility off the parents? If they can’t get anywhere with their children, then I think this would be necessary. My experience is that where there is a strong level of communication between parents and young people, then there is a much greater likelyhood that these types of problems can be solved. Since our society has become dependent upon “specialists”, I feel we have lost track of the foundation that supports society- the family. Perhaps a good course in parenting should be required of all new parents. IMO, what used to be taught in the home and extended family is now, many times, passed over because of our mobility and focus on personal fulfillment.

    March 23, 2008
  139. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, I think you inadvertently proved the point of needing numbers.
    It’s a shame when any kid is falling behind in school. But there are many ways a kid can slip up and few ways of determining what teaching methods work best for which kids.
    There is a point however, where the problem becomes measurable — or should be measurable. That point is leaving school, whether through dropping out, expulsion or transfer to a residential center or another school or even early college admission.
    Do we need to respond as a community every time a student fails a class? Probably not. Should we have some measurement of who leaves school and why? Definitely. That number is an indicator of how well the school and community are doing in educating students. If the indicators change, it’s a sign the school and community (and family) need to be looking at the system.
    In the same way, we can’t measure every kid who drinks or does drugs. But the number of kids in treatment, the number arrested, the number receiving outpatient care, all are indicators of how well we are doing in educating kids about drugs, alcohol and other addictions.
    We can’t measure all the snowflakes that fall, but we have arbitrary markers that help us know from year to year where we fall in the historical patterns that make up our climate.

    March 23, 2008
  140. Curt Benson said:

    Jane, did the students who told you they were given the choice of being expelled or quitting tell you how many infractions they had? Do they say they were given that choice on their first, second, third or more infractions? I personally have never heard of a student not being given a second or third chance. Maybe the experience of those you talk to is different.

    Sara Shippy works in the Northfield School District two days a week with students with chemical abuse issues. If all those students were expelled, what is she doing with her time?

    March 23, 2008
  141. Jane Moline said:

    Regarding getting statistics on drop-outs.

    I would like to know the true graduation rate for Northfield High School, completely separately from knowing how many drop out from drug use (although I want that info, too.)

    I believe these numbers are manipulated and hidden by the administration because it is a reflection on them. I believe this because I have read and studied reports on graduation rates, including national studies, and statistics show that the actual graduation rates are much lower than that reported–everywhere. (Yes, we can say it is the parents responsibility–but I still want to know these numbers.)

    Some school districts exclude students who transfer to another program and then stop going to school–say they go to the Alternative School, and they miss a few credits so they are not counted as dropping out, but say they don’t subsequently make up those credits–so they are not counted as dropping from their “normal” graduation class nor are they counted when the next year’s class graduates–they just go away.

    If students voluntarily withdraw (drop-out) at age 16, my guess is that the school will not count them as failing to graduate since they were just doing what they can legally do.

    In the case of our little drug addicts, I think the school resolves problems by encouraging drop-out of those they believe they won’t be able to rehabilitate. My “witnesses” told me that it was a clear statement to them–they could either drop-out or be expelled. Perhaps the students Sarah Shippey works with are all under age 16 when they were busted.

    I also think the school will strongly encourage attendance at another school. Then it becomes a transfer and not a drop-out (until they drop the other school.)

    Anyway, I just think it would be prudent to have hard numbers reported for each class and an explanation of where those students went (oin general–transfer out of state, transfer in the school district, age 16 drop out, early admit to college.) These are numbers that the school district has. I would think that they could maintain privacy by working with numbers, unless we get down to where we only have one drop-out (I wish.)

    I still think we are not going to have good statistics on drug abusers without a huge investment in community funds. The question still comes down to what you think makes a problem. If you think a few drug users here and there are tolerable, how many is a few and what is the tolerance of the next guy over (and what if a few is someone in your family?)

    I agree that there is a breakdown in family and community that contributes to most of the social problems we face, which includes drug use. I also think an active discussion helps support community and family. I just don’t think that claiming that not having statistics is a starting point to…what?..not do something is a little bit of a cop-out.

    Randy, I was offended by your analogy of comparing the Northfield police chief Gary Smith talking about what he believes is a social and familly problem in Northfield with the Bush administration’s run up to the Iraq war. This is still Northfield, and Gary Smith is not Karl Rove.

    In general, quite a few people on this blog have honed their skills at using the Rovian tactic and repeating themselves and using their words to convince people we don’t have a drug problem. They may be motivated to not air dirty laundry or because they fear having to deal with something so difficult or because they want everyone to think Northfield is only Special in good ways.

    I ask again (and I repeat myself)–what number of drug addicts does it take to make a problem?

    P.S. Somebody herein quoted an ECONOMIST as support for no drug problem because the documented financial loss at the school was too low to support that many kids on drugs. An economist? Aren’t they the same ones who gave us bond ratings on adjustable rate mortgages?

    I agree with Britt–you aren’t going to get statistics on this one. So, specifically to Randy, Anne, a little bit of David L (although I think you have the big picture and won’t admit it) you are going to continue to argue that there is not a drug problem until it hits you in the face. The rest of us have work to do.

    March 23, 2008
  142. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, I find it sad that in so many of these discussions, people write off those who disagree as uncaring or in denial or uninformed and unwilling to help.
    I’m not denying there’s a drug problem. I have had plenty of personal experience with addicts in my own family, I saw classmates in high school die or come to school stoned or be forced to drop out. I saw the same things when my kids were in school 20 years ago and I’ve seen it in communities in many places since.
    I’d be happy to help. But so far, no one has been able to tell me what ‘the community’ can do and how our work will affect the situation.
    As I said before, one heart attack a month may justify an ambulance to take patients to a nearby town, 500 a year would justify a heart center. Building a heart center that sits empty is a waste of time and money.
    And doing things that make you feel good but don’t help seems cruel to those in need.
    You’re right that we keep repeating our positions. You’re not hysterical, and we’re not in denial. We just see the problem from different positions. Our goal should be to reconcile those positions and find common ground, not keep battling over who is right.
    So I won’t push for endless detail, and you can see what numbers are realistic. It seems the enrollment numbers are a good start at that common ground.

    March 23, 2008
  143. kiffi summa said:

    Yesterday, there were D.A.R.E. representatives “tableing” with a little display in Econofoods. As I came around the end of an aisle, this is what I saw: A woman walked by them, heading towards where i was standing. One of the two young women working the table said something about explaining the program, and the woman declined to stop, and the D.A.R.E. rep made faces at the woman behind her back as she walked away. When she saw me observing this she did look slightly embarassed.

    As I then walked by the table, I was asked to stop and listen; I declined saying that I had no confidence in the program. I didn’t turn around as I walked away to see if I got the same reaction.

    Not an impressive presentation for D.A.R.E. in Northfield; it made me wonder if they were in the grocery because there has been some questioning/ complaints to the school district.

    March 25, 2008
  144. Britt Ackerman said:

    Although this trail of comments has probably gone on long enough to exhaust the topic, I’ll respond to a few queries and be guilty of keeping it rolling….

    Brendon (#137) : I didn’t intend my post to be a smack-down to any of the posters here. Rather, I was trying to convey my disappointment in how local governance has ground to a halt over the acrimony of this issue. Well, to be fair, there other issues responsible for the complete breakdown at the city level. But the heroin-numbers-or-lack-thereof-issue is surely responsible for a significant amount of finger pointing and, dare I say, wagging. So yes, I do feel some scorn. But not toward the posters here and not even toward any individual citizen working as a public servant. My scorn is directed at the political animal itself, apparently a cannibal. I would envision my sharp and succinct “deal with it” to come into play in the public discourse like this:
    [Scene:endless city council meeting]
    “Chief Smith made up numbers so we can’t even agree that there’s a heroin problem in Northfield.”
    “But what about all the kids getting treatment? Isn’t even one addict a problem? And how do you know the numbers are wrong?”
    “How do you know they’re right?”
    “You first.”
    “No, YOU first.”
    “Um, aren’t we supposed to be talking about the $4 million in missing money?”
    “That’s right, you’re correct. Let’s all turn to our agendas now. The next item of business is taking a vote on #3. All other discussions are tabled as untimely at this junction.”
    “But I think we should talk more about this alleged heroin epidemic!”
    “Well, you’re just going to have to move on and deal with it. We are all professionals here and we have a job to do. This discussion is procedurally untimely and we are moving on to #3.”

    David L. (#134) : I believe the problem is getting better only because of my personal experiences, and the evidence I have to support that assertion would, again, be purely anecdotal. And that’s the inevitable problem with achieving a viable data set when it comes to drug use and abuse.

    Anne (#136) : It is very hard to get any of the numbers you’re pondering. And although some savvy journalist could go through every single citation, police report, and complaint on file to determine empirically how many could be said to be drug related, there are the users who haven’t been caught or prosecuted who will remain unaccounted for. In several drug cases where the state’s case was based on informants, I have sought court orders to have information produced to me. For example, I want to know how many successful busts the government informant has historically had and how much that informant was paid. I want to know if the informant still uses drugs and if the informant has ever been wrong before. I want to know if the informant conducted any controlled drug buys while children were strapped in the back seat of the car (has happened many times) and how long the informant’s rent and groceries were paid for. Most of this time, the information is deemed classified, as the prosecutor will issue a certification of protection under Rule 9.01 subd. 3(2). Other times, the information is simply not there.

    I don’t know how the drug task force gets its funding or how it justifies its existence. I’m sure through anecdotal evidence. 🙂 The informants tell the task force what is going on and the task force tells the powers that be, and a check is cut. Sure, there’s no numbers to depend on…and how do we know that the informant is being truthful and not just selling out his/her competitors in the local drug trade? Or making a killing in tax-free government money by incriminating innocent people? These are things we don’t know.

    March 25, 2008
  145. Paul Fried said:

    Favorite things about this thread:
    A. Background on D.A.R.E. (esp. re: limitations).
    B. Bruce Anderson’s comments way back in #13 regarding the importance of focus on abuse.
    C. Debate regarding faith-based programs and their suitability (or lack thereof) to a public school setting.
    D. Debate about the extent to which we need to have a good prevention program in the schools, period, regardless of how many students are using, or the extent to which we need, first, to figure out how large our drug program is, and then determine what kind of program we need given the extent of the problem. (I come down on the side of those who see a need to have a good program, regardless of our progress or lack thereof regarding analysis of the problem).
    E. Britt’s call to refocus in #113.

    I would add: While AA is not a (before-the-fact) prevention program, sometimes AA participants (and affiliate groups for families and children) do give talks about their often tragic experiences with abuse, and the purpose of such talks is cautionary tale/awareness raising, etc.

    A few things I like about AA:

    1. It’s not-for profit, and not hooked to any one religion.

    2. When the 12-step program does come close to religious language, it does so in a very inclusive way, not tied to Christianity or any explicit, organized religion: It’s merely about admitting that there is a “higher power,” or that one depends on factors outside one’s self like the air we breathe, other people, etc.

    3. At times, the stories of addicts coming to terms with their addiction do resemble religious stories such as that of the prodigal son, or stories of “fall” (or “falling off the wagon”) and grace, or needed help from unexpected places and people (“angel”/”Good Samaritan”). But I would not take this as proof that Jesus is the only answer to drug addiction; rather, that some people are able to use traditional religious language to describe their story and the dynamics of their recovery, and may find great meaning in doing so. Others don’t use that kind of language (and might have good reason not to, if they’ve had negative experiences with organized religion), but may still have very similar patterns of experience that others do describe with that kind of language.

    4. AA is a kind of “gift community”: They recognize that they need the help and support of the community, and they also view themselves as having a kind of debt they owe, or a need to “pay it forward” by helping others who struggle with addiction. This may be , in part, a source of its success. Lewis Hyde’s 1979 book, “The Gift” (recently re-issued) is more about art and poetry than about AA, but the book mentions AA as a gift community in a number of spots, and made me aware of this aspect.

    Perhaps a really excellent drug abuse prevention program would resonate with larger truths as described in the fourth point about AA above. If it did, then students could come to view it, not merely as a time to learn about drug abuse and to be persuaded not to go there, but as the kind of learning that would ring true in larger ways.

    I agree with those who want to keep faith-based (or organized religion-based) programs out of the public schools. I attend church regularly, but my favorite religious folks (of any faith, and many faiths) are those who recognize that the stuff we talk about when we talk best and most accurately about religion is much larger, and richer, than the organized religion-based language we use to talk about it, so I don’t want any one faith-based group in the schools claiming a monopoly on the language used, or turning kids off. Inclusive is better, which is why I’m more interested in the 12-step approach than the fundamentalist/literalist approach that one sometimes finds in faith-based programs.

    March 25, 2008
  146. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News, an article on the results from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey titled What’s really going on with our kids?

    Students are asked about tobacco, alcohol and other drug use and attitudes, as well as sexual behaviors, nutritional habits, physical activity and unintentional injuries and violence… In Northfield, 292 sixth-graders, 290 freshmen and 178 seniors took the survey… According to the survey, heroin use among high school students decreased in the last three years, particularly among ninth grade boys. In 2004, 6 percent of ninth grade boys reported using heroin in the previous year. Last year, only 2 percent made the same claim, while 1 percent of 12th grade boys and 12th grade girls reported heroin use in the prior year.

    March 26, 2008
  147. Anne Bretts said:

    It’s interesting that the students hadn’t noticed the increase in drug use all around them. Even allowing for some misrepresentation by kids doing the reporting, the report is considered a pretty solid benchmark measurement.
    I did look at the enrollment numbers reported to the state each fall and the numbers from grades 9-12 don’t show the kind of marked decline that would indicate a high dropout rate. Of course, because there can be variances in class size from year to year, the way to check more accurately would be to get the enrollment numbers for the last several years and backtrack each graduating class for four years to see how their numbers dropped over time. If anyone feels the need, the state department of education has all the numbers.
    Again, these aren’t perfect statistics. They do reflect a situation that needs to be taken seriously, but may not be quite as serious as previously indicated.
    And that’s a cause for relief, not an attempt to revive the endless circular argument about whether the problem exists.

    March 26, 2008
  148. Paul Fried said:

    As others have said, it seems we have to examine our assumptions. If a survey of youth claims there’s a decrease, this may or may not reflect the reality of drug use. If Britt’s experience reflects a rise in certain court cases, this may or may not reflect a rise in overall drug use. If the police make more arrests, or have certain people feeding them information, it may reflect a statistical rise in drug use, or it may reflect the fact that a number of users were careless and got caught, and are not representative of overall drug use.

    I don’t say any of this in a spirit of denial, nor in a spirit of wishing to save taxpayer dollars for not having to pay for drug abuse awareness in schools. I’m in favor of that. But as Brendon observed, there’s a certain degree of unreliability built into some of these things as tools. Not to say that Britt and Gary Smith don’t know what they know, but how to apply what you know as a tool for interpreting the larger picture is a slippery beast.

    It’s also possible that many users who took the survey intentionally under-reported the problem because they don’t want the scrutiny. More research and analysis are needed to get a clearer picture — but drug abuse awareness programs should not wait for a “final” analysis — you’ll never get a perfectly clear view of a problem that inherently involves crime and secrecy like this.

    March 29, 2008
  149. David Ludescher said:

    I talked to my two high-school kids regarding the usage report. They have suggested that the reporting has a margin of error of 10% – 20%. (I didn’t see a margin of error in the report.) Their conclusion was that ninth graders were grossly over-reporting because they think it is humorous to anonymously report drug usage. They thought that the numbers are probably under-reported among the seniors for exactly the opposite reason.

    Anne: It’s not clear to me what you mean by a “pretty solid benchmark” and “a cause for relief”. Are you suggesting that Northfield’s policies should be based on this report rather than the other numbers that have been bantered about? Or, are you suggesting something else?

    Paul: You suggested that more research and analysis is needed to get a clearer picture. What kind of research and analysis? Why doesn’t the report reveal that “the emperor has no clothes”? Doesn’t it verify what Randy and I have been saying all along about the need for some verifiable data? Isn’t this much better than anecdotal evidence?

    March 30, 2008
  150. Anne Bretts said:

    David L.,
    I’m not suggesting that the high school survey be THE benchmark, I’m just noting that having a consistent survey, using a consistent survey group (though the specific students change over time) and having a pretty consistent margin of error (kids exaggerate in pretty predictable ways) creates one good benchmark. The state keeps doing it, not because each survey is highly accurate but because over time it lets us spot trends.
    It’s the same with other sources of information. We will never know each teen who takes a drink or pops a pill, but using measurements of those who drop out, those who seek inpatient treatment, those who use local outpatient services, those who are arrested for DUI, possession and other charges, all of those put together create a baseline against which we can spot changes — both good and bad.
    Hazeldon, which has more experience than most, has measurements it uses to monitor the situation in Ramsey and Hennepin counties, two places with highly mobile and hard to track populations. I just don’t see why this is so freaking hard here.

    March 30, 2008
  151. Anne Bretts said:

    Just a reminder…the media loves anniversary stories, so come July they will be swarming all over the place. I’m wondering how the national audience will react when we say that we still don’t know whether the chief was a visionary or a blind fool, we have no idea whether things are better or worse or why, but some of us feel better and some of us don’t.

    March 30, 2008
  152. kiffi summa said:

    David L: I think your kids assessment of the veracity of the report is pretty good and it agrees with what most professionals think, as i recall from several conversations on this over the years.
    When you take into consideration the under-reporting and over-reporting, it averages out to be fairly accurate.

    Let’s just get all the best programs in place that we can, that support users and their families, and be oh, so very glad, when and if they’re not as heavily used.

    But let’s also get the hospital to play a bigger role…………

    March 30, 2008
  153. David Ludescher said:

    Anne: Why doesn’t this report put to bed the claims by Chief Smith?

    March 31, 2008
  154. Anne Bretts said:

    David L.,
    I’m about at the end of my interest in this discussion, although I think the one-year-after stories will be pretty good reading, if I know my journalistic colleagues.
    The student survey report is only one part of the issue because many of the “young people” who are (or aren’t) using aren’t in school. The chief’s definition was a 10-year demographic of about 3,000 people ages 15-25 — the high school link was added by others, including the misleading original Locally Grown headline, which was changed later. So 250 users out of 3,000 people is different from 250 in the high school.
    Also, if the chief was right and there was a spike in use due to a specific influx of the drug (like a spike in the flu or a case of tainted hamburger causing e-coli infections), it could have happened after the survey was given.
    I’m not defending the chief or challenging his numbers. Frankly, I am apalled that a town with this many clergy, teachers, social workers, college academics, police officers and busybodies, can’t determine any reliable data on such a small subset of the population — a subset which has stable home addresses, family situations, school options and church affiliations and very limited options for counseling and AA or NA meetings and inpatient treatment. For crying out loud, these kids must be completely outnumbered and we’re still debating how many there are or whether we can ever get “good” numbers.
    We can’t get perfect numbers on exactly how many eagles there are in the wild, but we have numbers good enough to tell us when they become endangered and when they recover. We can’t know precisely how much snow is falling today, but we’ve got some accepted measurements.
    Enough analogies, enough discussion. Count or don’t, spend money wisely or foolishly, argue til the cows come home, and the numbers will be what the numbers always are. A certain small percentage of people involved in any behavior — drinking, gambling, smoking, shopping, playing online games, people having sex — will develop a dependance or addiction. Some will continue the behavior in moderation and others never will develop more than casual behavior patterns. Teens, whose brains are more fragile, are more likely to develop problems.
    (Circumstances also play a role in addiction and abuse. For example, a study of Vietnam vets found that of all those who reported being addicted to heroin while in country, only 7 percent remained addicted when they returned home. It’s the same principle that explains drunken college students graduating and going on with their lives and drug-addled boomers becoming judgmental parents.)
    So the adults who warned us about Satanic cults, and meth and heroin and chewing tobacco and masturbation and marijuana and moonshine and having sex on the first date are right — to a point.
    The only real point about teens is the same one we need to make about adults. We all need people close to us who can see when our behavior begins slipping and intervene before we run into a ditch and hurt ourselves or run across the center line and hurt others.

    March 31, 2008
  155. David Ludescher said:

    Griff’s original questions went to who should be the ultimate policy-makers on drug issues. Let me suggest that never again should it be the police chief.

    April 1, 2008
  156. Felicity Enders said:

    Regarding the survey data reported by the NN, I have a number of concerns:

    • As David L said (#150) there is likely a bias toward reporting excess activity in 9th grade and underreporting in 12th grade.
    • There is also a missing data problem. There are two parts to this. First, only kids in class with their age group only were given the survey (at least that’s my understanding based on this article). In 9th grade that’s ok, since there are probably numerous 9th-grade-only courses. In 12th grade, it may be more problematic. In my high school, the only 12th-grade-only courses were advanced topic courses; kids who were somewhat behind would not have been in such courses. Is that also true in NHS, or is my info hopelessly out of date?
    • The second part of the missing data problem is what Jane Moline discussed in #142; namely, kids with problems may be dropping out (or “transferred”) before 12th grade. They would not then be available to take the survey, so personal use of drugs/alcohol will always be somewhat underreported.
    • David L (#150) commented that he was told the margin of error was 10% to 20%. That’s a misleading report by whoever originally made the statement:
      • The margin of error in any survey depends on the percentage answering “yes” vs. “no” for each question, so it really varies quite a bit by question.
      • More importantly, in this case Northfield High School represents the entire population, so talking about a margin of error is not terribly useful (margin of error is used to describe how far off the sample may be in describing the population, so when the whole population is sampled margin of error isn’t as useful as the percentages reported). The issues of bias discussed above are far more important.

    Fortunately, the survey itself seems to have been designed to address the concerns I just described. The NN reported only the results of those questions asking directly what the kids reported using. In the original survey, these were worded as things like “During the last 30 days, on how many days did you drink one or more drinks of an alcoholic beverage?” However, the survey also included several useful questions which were not reported by the NN. I’ve pulled these with their response percentages from the 2007 report for Rice County as a whole, available at (For simplicity, I’ll use “6M” etc to denote 6th grade males, etc.)

    1. “Student use of alcohol or drugs is a problem at this school” Percent responding “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”:
      • 6M 18%, 6F 17%
      • 9M 64%, 9F 72%
      • 12M 70%, 12F 80%
    2. “Illegal gang activity is a problem at this school” Percent responding “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”:
      • 6M 14%, 6F 16%
      • 9M 26%, 9F 22%
      • 12M 27%, 12F 17%
    3. “During the last 12 months, has anyone offered, sold, or given you an illegal drug on school property?” Percent responding “Yes”:
      • 6M 1%, 6F 2%
      • 9M 24%, 9F 15%
      • 12M 25%, 12F 6%
    4. “Has alcohol use by any family member repeatedly caused family, health, job, or legal problems?” Percent responding “Yes”:
      • 6M 9%, 6F 8%
      • 9M 12%, 9F 17%
      • 12M 12%, 12F 16%
    5. “Has drug use by any family member repeatedly caused family, health, job, or legal problems?” Percent responding “Yes”:
      • 6M 6%, 6F 3%
      • 9M 10%, 9F 13%
      • 12M 7%, 12F 9%

    As I mentioned before, these numbers are for all of Rice County, not just Northfield. However, the questions are of great interest to me. Questions 1 and 2 are clearly designed to overcome two problems: missing data, and concern about telling the truth about one’s own activity; both are likely more reliable in describing problems at the school than the direct questions about students’ own usage (though survey data will never be 100% accurate). Questions 3-5 are specific areas of concern: in 3, we see whether drugs are on campus; in 4 and 5 we see whether there is a potential link to problems within the family unit.

    It would be extremely helpful to see these numbers for Northfield.

    April 2, 2008
  157. kiffi summa said:

    I have been very critical of the DARE program in its techniques and effectiveness, as related to preventing drug use.

    But I do see one positive aspect to it if it familiarizes young people to our police force, and the comfort level it establishes with a uniformed officer. This is a good thing. Uniforms and a big gun on the hip can be intimidating. So can a verbal attitude that exudes power.

    So a local officer, being a friendly and congenial partner in exploring a subject can be a very positive thing for the kids participating in the relationship.

    Why couldn’t this relationship be established just on a community basis, without being linked to any other program?

    April 6, 2008
  158. Griff Wigley said:

    It’s been 5 weeks since we’ve argued about drugs. I miss it so! In today’s Nfld News: County sheriff digging further into drug abuse.

    In the last two and a half years, by Sheriff Richard Cook’s count, eight young Northfield and Lonsdale residents have overdosed on heroin and OxyContin. In five of those cases, Cook said, the victims, between 18 and 25, died. All but one of the deaths occurred in the last 10 months.

    The newly formed Rice County Drug Task Force is only beginning to get a handle on the scope of the problem, Cook said. Last year, Rice County law enforcement agencies withdrew from a five-county group to focus on drug use in this county. While methamphetamine and crack/cocaine use continues to be an issue, the sheriff said, narcotics use is significant and concentrated in the northern portion of the county.

    May 14, 2008
  159. Scott Oney said:

    Griff: I’m glad the Northfield News has finally reported on this, even if only in this oblique way. Of the five deaths mentioned, the News hasn’t so far managed to report a single one as drug related, which shouldn’t have been too hard, even for them. I’m wondering if they even tried. But in all fairness, their reporting style seems to resemble that of a company newsletter more than a real newspaper, so it’s probably news that just didn’t fit.

    I’m guessing Sheriff Cook’s numbers include only deaths occurring in Rice County, and only those due to overdose (but probably including asphyxiation), so there may be a couple that were left out. As a purely hypothetical example, a Northfielder crashing a car eleven or twelve miles north of town would show up in some other county’s statistics.

    May 16, 2008
  160. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott, I’ve tried to get toxicology reports from county coroners but they won’t release them with the written consent of the family. I guess this applies to deaths where the deceased did not commit a crime involving others.

    So a reporter would have to gain the trust of family members to do a story about this.

    May 23, 2008
  161. Scott Oney said:

    Griff: Gaining the trust of family members and encouraging them to tell their stories would be the best way, and it would probably lead to fewer hurt feelings. It may be worth a try. But families and friends of the recently deceased are undoubtedly under enormous pressure from business associates, religious leaders, and other leading citizens to keep quiet, especially in matters that would shed light on the structure of the local drug trade. And for people who have lost children or siblings, it’s understandable that at such a terrible time they may not be ready to find their inner hero, come forward, and fight the system.

    With five, or five plus, deaths to account for, though, it seems as if some sources must be available. Anyone close to the families probably knows their stories and could be encouraged to speak, even if anonymously. Ignoring the problem doesn’t seem to have worked so far, unless a half dozen deaths a year are to be considered an acceptable cost of doing business.

    May 23, 2008
  162. One of the overriding problems with education of our youth in this country is that we start too late. As an art teacher I learned that young children can learn and do a lot more than the schedule allows for on a daily basis. Parents should start when the child is first aware of their surroundings. Some lessons can focus on what is too much vs what is not enough.

    Parents lives are an example, all experience start here and the experiences are the great teachers.

    Certainly one of the first lessons to learn is that anything in excess can hurt a human being. Too much sun, too much rain, too much wind, too much food, too much sitting, too much running, and so on.

    The next lesson should show what happens when we get or do too much of something. Exact descriptions of life once the effects have taken hold upon the one who has done too much should be shown in truth, in fact, and not always pointing to the worst case scenario, as that is what leads to the mistrust of authority.

    I guess what I am saying is that there is no public solution to this if the parents refuse to set proper examples and set limits and are around enough to care and watch over their children. The society must
    accommodate this for people so that they can work from home, or
    work less hours and be more available for their first jobs, that of parenthood.

    May 24, 2008
  163. David Henson said:

    5 ODs in one year seems like a public health or Center for Disease Control issue in addition to law enforcement.

    May 27, 2008
  164. Scott Oney said:

    Griff, re your posts #164 and #168: I’m wondering if another avenue might be available for getting the toxicology reports, at least for a couple of the recent deaths. It’s my understanding that, in a couple of cases, excessive drinking in Northfield bars was involved. If someone were to sue the establishments for overserving, wouldn’t they be entitled to the reports (so they could, hypothetically, say that it wasn’t the alcohol, but the OC, or the heroin, or whatever, that caused the death). In the links you posted, it was the families that sued, but other parties probably could sue as well, such as friends or perhaps even a chapter of MADD or some such organization. Anything that might help to break through the conspiracy of silence and denial is worth a try.

    May 28, 2008

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