POLACCA, Ariz. - Hopi Police Lt. Paul Sidney spoke to the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) Feb. 3 about problems with drugs and alcohol at Hopi Jr./Sr. High School and in the community.
Approximately 30 parents, students and school staff attended the gathering in the school's library.
Sidney's visit comes after five high school girls were caught drinking or intoxicated at school, and a lockdown at the school where police brought in drug-sniffing dogs. The search found some marijuana.
"Marijuana was ditched in the hallway," Sidney said. "Everything that is in the community eventually comes to the high school."
Sidney compared the situation to a cat and mouse game. For instance, the school in the past required see-through backpacks yet students found ways to sneak the alcohol in.
He said alcohol poisoning can cause youth to go into a coma. Alcohol abuse causes youth to lose their attention span and hurts their memory.
"Somebody's bootlegging. You can't blame the administration or the police department," Sidney said. "We need to educate the young people and the parents. I'm here to help prevent alcohol poisoning."
Sidney said alcohol makes it more likely that students will have sex, and it's more likely that some will become violent.
He said that he is the one stuck telling angry parents about their child being taken to jail. The Hopi jail cannot house minors, so the closest place for minors to be taken is Holbrook. He said the Hopi reservation needs a detoxification center so it can be used as at least a temporary holding facility.
He said another problem is illegal use of prescription drugs. He said some athletes use this to cut down on pain and he would like to give a presentation at the start of the football season about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
Sidney said some break-ins occur when people are looking to steal prescription drugs.
If a student is caught using drugs or alcohol at Hopi High, the first offense calls for five days of in-school suspension. Dealing drugs calls for nine days out-of-school suspension and a recommendation for long-term suspension. Students who are caught at school, aside from suffering the school penalties, can also be arrested.
The school's drug and alcohol policies are reviewed on an annual basis and parents are invited to join the review process as part of the manual policy review.
Sidney said it is important to consider how tough they should be on a first-time offender.
"We need to have social services more involved," he said.
Sidney added that the number one reason for arrest on the Hopi Reservation is intoxication. He said alcoholism and drug abuse impacts almost everybody on the Hopi reservation through their families and friends.
"I have a son in the eighth grade here and I fear for him because of the alcohol and drugs," he said. "It shouldn't take a policeman. Parents are the role models."
Sidney, a 1990 graduate of Hopi High School, has been with law enforcement since 1993. He said the Hopi Police Department has high caliber, dedicated officers. He said the department offers a ride along program for those who want to see what the police do. He said within a few hours on a recent night the police had a domestic violence call, a DUI and a car breakdown.
He said police officers are prone to high blood pressure, alcoholism and suicide because of their work.
Sidney said his friend Sgt. Milfred Tewawina told him that it doesn't matter if there are only two or three people in the audience because each of them will talk to five to 10 friends so the message about the dangers of drugs can spread even if it starts out small.
Hopi Jr/Sr High School Superintendent Gregory Sackos told the PAC gathering that the school-wide search for drugs during the lockdown was a measure to help students. He said all schools with teens face problems with drugs and alcohol, but that doesn't make it okay.
Sackos said students cannot perform their best because they are in the wrong state of mind if they are taking drugs or alcohol.
"I'll take all necessary steps," he said about addressing the drug and alcohol use at Hopi Jr./Sr. High School.
Sackos noted that the drug-sniffing dogs found marijuana, but no narcotics during their search. He said drug and alcohol violations are up this school year.
"I want them to go down. The school is just one piece of the puzzle," he said. "We will train teachers to be more vigilant."
Sackos said the administration will look at bringing back mesh, see-through backpacks.
"The goal is not to bust students, but to send a message," he said.
Sackos pointed to a recent TV program by students from Arizona State University that showed the horrors of students who became addicted to heroin.
"No drugs are good, but some like heroin there's no turning back," he said about the highly addictive drug.