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Yorktown HS Graduating Senior Graham Weinschenk: “Why do students smoke pot or use xanax or adderall?”

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by Graham Weinschenk, a graduating Senior – and rising star – at Arlington County’s Yorktown High School.

Editor’s update: In chatting with Graham, he adds that this problem is NOT specific to Arlington, but that he’s “had friends from Young Dems all over the country text me and tell me how much they agree with the post.”

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As some of you may have heard, APS and ACPD will begin patrolling the high schools with drug-sniffing dogs. This is in response to the increased use of drugs (particularly xanax and adderall) and alcohol among the APS student body, and APS claims that these sweeps are necessary in order to address and correct the increase of drug use.

In my opinion, I don’t think law enforcement and education should be mixed at all except for the direct protection of the school. But setting that point aside for the moment, let’s talk about what APS wants to do and whether it will be effective. Short answer: No, it won’t be effective. ACPD will catch one idiot kid who brought some pot to school. They aren’t going to correct the drug problem with after school locker searches. Now, before all the parents go “Yay!!! This kid is advocating for searches during school!!!”, I’m not, and let me continue.

If APS *REALLY* wants to correct the drug problem, they need to go to the source. Why do students smoke pot or use xanax or adderall? I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t because they think that drugs have positive benefits, and it isn’t because they’re being peer-pressured into it (for the most part).

It’s because attending an Arlington high school is so. Freaking. Stressful. APS shoves AP courses on students like they’re nothing. The course load and work load for students is absolutely absurd. The load is so much that kids turn to drugs because they can’t possibly de-stress otherwise. School is still in the back of their minds with every other activity.

To be clear, I 100% do *NOT* condone drug use to deal with stress. Drugs are not an appropriate coping method, but my point is that the stress level shouldn’t be so high that kids feel that they HAVE to turn to drugs. So, if APS really wants to tackle the drug problem, they need to tackle student stress. De-stress students and the drug use will decrease. Just my theory….

  • On the other hand, kids who have a relatively relaxed and stress-free life sometimes use drugs out of boredom.

    • Louise

      This is true! It really depends on the kid and the family. Not every kid in Arlington is under this pressure. Some families are able to say no and ensure their kids have a “normal” life.

  • ArlingtonMom

    What a pathetic argument that upholds irresponsibility! (sigh) Why blame drug-using kids if you can pin the blame on stress from parents and the schools?

    If you think high school is a stressful environment, you don’t know stress. Life only gets more stressful with greater responsibilities. If you think coping with stress by using drugs is acceptable, you don’t understand the basics of stress management.

    No, Graham, bringing drugs to school is a criminal act, and the drug-sniffing dogs should be used more frequently, in my opinion, with no warning to students beforehand. Free public education from the government means our government can choose how to protect its citizens, especially its youngest ones.

    • Graham Weinschenk

      Hi, thanks for your feedback! I encourage you to go back and re-read the last paragraph of what I wrote. I clearly do not condone drug use at all. Nor do I ever say that bringing drugs to school is okay. In fact, I never even advocate for or against the drug sniffing dogs.

      All I really have to say in response to this to reiterate what has already been said by the commenters on Arlington Education Matters: that APS and adults need to listen more to students and figure out what the root of the drug problem is and come up with a creative and effective solution to the problem.

      In addition, to digress briefly, high school is absolutely stressful and more stressful than when you attended. I have a friend who has taken FOURTEEN AP classes in the past three years. That’s an absurd work load.

      Lastly, I would just ask that you fully read what is written before commenting, that you take a second to digest what you have read before typing a comment, and that you have a greater understanding of what it means to analyze an opposing opinion, instead of validating it.

      • Dean Bonney

        I completely agree with you Graham. The focus at APS on AP classes is out of control. That coupled with the insanely out of control expectations of helicopter parenting over achievers has led to a toxic dependency on drugs to achieve academic excellence in Arlington. As parents we have used our children as markers of our own success at the expense of our childrens safety and well-being. My advice is to resist by achieving what is good for you and not for your parents or APS. Keep resisting running with the sheep. You wlll be rewarded.

      • ArlingtonMom

        Graham, the summary of your point is this: parents cannot understand what it’s really like to be a teenager these days. This was the same myopic claim we made on our parents. It was the same myopic claim our parents made on their parents. When you’re my age, your kids will make the same baseless claim.

        And, because we lack the capacity for understanding, we lack the authority to enforce society’s rules. Or, in other words: you know better than your parents, because reasons. We are thankful kids are here to teach us wisdom.

        The reason why we as youth make claims like this is because we lack experience and perspective at that age. Every adult was once a child and understands what it is to be a child. No child understands what it is to be an adult because they have never been an adult. Heck, the law allows age-discrimination against the young on this basis.

        Drug possession, use and sale are all illegal because society corporately has made the cost-benefit analysis and determined that the individual and society are better off without those chemicals. I can’t imagine that a child would try to ward off AP-related stress by ingesting chemicals that add the stress of prison. I would think they would seek other stress relief means via church, meditation, yoga, sports or the like.

        Perhaps the child who feels over-stressed by school pressure should seek to determine whether that pressure is self- or parent-induced, then work with the source of that stress to release it. School stress is far more arbitrary and controllable than stress you experience as an adult.

        • ArlingtonMomToo

          Oh my goodness, ArlingtonMom, I am also an Arlington Mom and you are completely out of touch and really rude. You think kids seek out stress relief through church, meditation, and yoga? Seriously? Many, many 40 something year old women don’t even do that. And their brains are supposedly fully developed. That’s why there are so many news items about moms who drink wine every night, or abuse prescription drugs. In fact, I wonder where the kids are getting their xanax?

          How many AP classes did you have a quarter when you were in high school? What was the number of kids applying to your college and the acceptance rate at the time? How many hours did you have to spend bombarded with digital information and social media? It is different now. The kid is right. I guess his words hit a little too close to home for you.

          • Love love love this comment, thanks for leaving it — great to know that not all Arlington Moms are like “ArlingtonMom” – lol.

          • Louise

            She always is! Thanks for calling her on it.

    • Louise

      You missed his point. Completely.

      • ArlingtonMom

        Hi Louise! No, I didn’t miss his point. His theory is that decreased stress (easier classes and fewer APs) will reduce Arlington schools’ drug rates. That’s complete and utter baloney. Kids will be even less prepared for college if they’ve never experienced stress in school while living at home.

        I’m actually offended by the argument that stress makes them do it. This reasoning blames an outside source and seeks to remove blame from the person who does the action. That’s called irresponsibility. It’s a “not my fault” excuse that I’ve heard from teens many times. It’s why I called Graham’s argument pathetic. It’s the typical response of many teens to blame others for their problems.

        And, kids will continue to experiment with drugs in a less stressful environment for a multitude of reasons: 1) they have money to buy it and decide to experiment, 2) their morals are such that they don’t believe they’ll get caught – not even believing God is watching or they’ll ever be judged for their behavior, 3) many have one or both parents too busy to notice (ie. it’s easier to think kids are okay if their grades are good and they appear okay on the outside), 4) peer pressure, 5) boredom, 6) the thrill of doing something they shouldn’t.

        Many psychologists say a parent’s time and attention is needed most when children are ages 0-3 and teenagers. These are the ages when children push boundaries the most. I believe Arlington’s parents are failing their children more than the schools are. They’re either not involved or smart enough to notice the drug usage of their children or not caring enough to get their children to stop using. I hope this drug sniffing dog approach wakes parents up to the reality of the drug problem in our schools.

      • ArlingtonMom

        Hi Louise! No, I didn’t miss his point. His theory is that decreased stress (easier classes and fewer APs) will reduce Arlington schools’ drug rates. That’s complete and utter baloney. Kids will be even less prepared for college if they’ve never experienced stress in school while living at home.

        I’m actually offended by the argument that stress makes them do it. This reasoning blames an outside source and seeks to remove blame from the person who does the action. That’s called irresponsibility. It’s a “not my fault” excuse that I’ve heard from teens many times. It’s why I called Graham’s argument pathetic. It’s the typical response of many teens to blame others for their problems.

        And, kids will continue to experiment with drugs in a less stressful environment for a multitude of reasons: 1) they have money to buy it and decide to experiment, 2) their morals are such that they don’t believe they’ll get caught – not even believing God is watching or they’ll ever be judged for their behavior, 3) many have one or both parents too busy to notice (ie. it’s easier to think kids are okay if their grades are good and they appear okay on the outside), 4) peer pressure, 5) boredom, 6) the thrill of doing something they shouldn’t.
        Many psychologists say a parent’s time and attention is needed most when children are ages 0-3 and teenagers. These are the ages when children push boundaries the most. I believe Arlington’s parents are failing their children more than the schools are. They’re either not involved or smart enough to notice the drug usage of their children or not caring enough to get their children to stop using.

        I hope this drug sniffing dog approach wakes parents up to the reality of drugs in our schools and wakes children up to the seriousness and consequences of taking drugs. Arlington County cares about the health of its students, and this is a good step toward helping families uncover secrets and bring them to light.

        • Louise

          It doesn’t seem odd to you that you, a grown woman, finds it appropriate to refer to a high achieving, well mannered young man’s thoughts and concerns as “pathetic”?

          • ArlingtonMom

            No, I don’t. I believe his blaming the school system for causing stress is a pathetic society-blaming argument. It is a red flag showing the society-blaming philosophy he was taught in Arlington schools.

            It’s an individual’s choice, not the school’s fault. The character of students who are using illegal drugs is what should be analyzed. Unless they’re complete idiots, teens know that using illegal drugs is punishable by suspension. They’re choosing to violate the law.

          • sally

            You have never made a poor decision based on stress, pain or anxiety? wow. you are so fortunate.

          • For right wingers, everything is “personal responsibility,” except when it’s Donald Trump for instance, in which case NOTHING is EVER personal responsibility, it’s always someone else’s fault. These folks are truly “special snowflakes.”

  • pittardm

    Agree with you, too, Graham. And the argument that being an adult is more stressful than being a kid is not a good one in this case. Kids’ brains are developing. They aren’t adults and don’t make decisions like adults. They don’t respond to peer pressure and stress like adults. Here’s an article: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=3943187&page=1 There are many more articles and medical studies online. To those parents who say, basically, “Stop whining and get over it, kids,” I say, “Please learn more about this subject.” We need to come up with solutions that meet students where they are and deal with stress as they experience it.

  • Gracia Holtz

    Well said, Graham. This Loudoun County parent supports your argument 100%.