Debbie Boniface understands the importance of repeating a message, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse among students.
“We want to make sure we emphasize healthy choices,” said Boniface, principal at . “Teens sometimes don’t hear it until it’s been said 27 times.”
Following recent overdose cases where heroin may have been involved, district administrators sent a letter to parents asking for their help and awareness. Robo calls also were made with principals reading the message.
“It’s very important for parents, community members and kids to know that the point is not to get someone in trouble, but to get them help and support,” Boniface said. “This is about making healthy and appropriate choices, and whatever we can do to ensure that is important.”
The letter sent Thursday by Superintendent James Gay asks parents to talk directly with their children about drug use. The letter mentioned resources on the district's website, as well as information on guidance departments when added help is needed.
The letter told parents there recently have been:
"...disturbing stories about dangerous and sometimes deadly behavior in which teens in the south suburbs have been engaging. News reports include underage drinking and law enforcement concerns over the increase in availability of drugs, particularly heroin.
“We strongly believe all adults, parents, educators, law enforcement, community and religious leaders must be vigilant in knowing what teens are involved in when adults are not present.”
On Jan 1., a 19-year-old former Amos Alonzo Stagg High School student, and Orland Park resident, was pronounced dead after paramedics were called to a house party in unincorporated Palos Township. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released the cause of death.
police are currently investigating the Dec. 31 death of an 18-year-old former where the drug is believed to have been a factor, said Deputy Chief James Boie. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has yet to determine an exact cause of death in that case as well, pending toxicology reports.
The issues described in the letter and calls stem more from the community as a whole, rather than specific incidents at the school, Boniface said.
“We’re not noticing a big uptick at the school itself, but we aren’t going to put our heads in the sand,” she said.
Breaks from school can be an added factor in cases where teens are found using drugs and drinking, Boniface noted.
“When kids are away from school for a while, their guard is let down,” she said. “They don’t have to be somewhere the next day, don’t have to get homework done. Sometimes bad things happen.”
Orland Fire Battalion Chief Michael Schofield also noticed a rise in calls where teens were using heroin, as well as other substances. Schofield, who also serves as fire chief in Homer Glen, assembled the Blink of an Eye awareness program with parents whose children died from overdoses, .
The school encourages parents and students to browse the page on District 230's website that is devoted to substance abuse resources.
If you are a District 230 parent share what you have heard about heroin usage in the comments section.
Palos Patch editor Dan Lambert contributed to this report.