Advice Needed: What to Do About Drugs at the Playground?

Hi Readers — Just got this letter today and what’s cool is that the writer, Aaron, is asking for your input, not just mine. That’s good because I don’t have a lot of advice for this fellow, except, “Alert the police.” So — let’s see what other great ideas are out there! — L.

Dear Lenore:   I am interested in your advice and the advice of other Free-Range Kids readers about a situation we appear to be having. The area I live in is decidedly suburban and middle class (suburban DC actually), and I’ve never for a moment felt unsafe here, so it’s not like there are junkies lying about in doorways and on the streets. I have no doubt there are drugs around just like anywhere else, but I did not expect them on my apartment playground.

Now, I am fortunate that the back door of my apartment unit opens directly into a small playground, and my kids (6 and 4) are almost always out there playing, most of the time while we stay in and do other things. Last night, early evening, the kids went out to play, and my wife noticed some teenagers acting suspiciously, and so she went out to see what was going on. These kids were smoking something (and no, we don’t know that it was drugs, but tellingly, my 6 year old said they had a “trophy,” so you can guess what that was), and left in an awful hurry after she arrived.

My concern is what this little incident is capable of doing to an otherwise safe and secure community. For obvious reasons, I don’t want my kids to be exposed to open illegal drug use, and I certainly am not keen on them stumbling across dangerous paraphernalia. On the other hand, I don’t want to curtail my kids’ freedom to be kids just because some knuckleheads can’t find a basement to use instead of my playground. I neither want to stand out there every moment my kids are playing nor want to keep them indoors out of fear.

So far, we’ve contacted the apartment management, and submitted a written statement. We’ve also talked to a few of the neighbors about it. I am also considering printing big signs that say things like “No Drugs” and “We’re Watching” as a psychological measure.

Is there anything else you recommend? I understand that the power of community is that people can band together to keep stuff like this out, but I’m not sure we’re at that level yet.

Any advice you have would be most welcome, and if you see fit to ask the greater Free-Range Kids community, I will eagerly await their responses. — Aaron

Me too! — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: Girl Suspended for Touching Pill

Hi Readers! Yes, you read that right. A middle school girl in an Indiana, Rachel Greer, was in the school’s locker room when another girl walked in with a bag of ADHD pills.  She put one in Rachel’s hand and Rachel said, “I don’t want this!” so she put it back in the bag and headed into gym class, according to this account.

But after the girl with the pills was discovered, she fingered Rachel and Rachel admitted the truth: She had indeed touched the pill — that she immediately rejected. And, thanks to those Zero Tolerance laws we spend a lot of time talking about here, she received a week-long suspension for drug possession: no ifs, ands, butts — or common sense. School officials apparently explained that if they didn’t enforce their drug policies strictly, no one would take them seriously.

Too bad that by enforcing their drug policies so stupidly, that’s exactly what’s happening. The administrators are a laughing stock. Or maybe a crying stock is more like it. — Lenore

School Uses Laptops to Spy on Kids: The Update. Really Weird Update.

Hi Folks! Just read this bizarre new wrinkle on TechDirt about the case of the Pennsylvania school that gave its 1800 students laptops and then used them to spy on the kids — 42 times! While the school claims it activated the cameras only when trying to track down a lost or stolen computer, nonetheless the original student we were talking about here was disciplined for selling or taking drugs. That’s an activity the kid did in his own home, as witnessed by a school administrator  via a secretly activated laptop.

And the administrator witnessed wrong! The drugs turned out to be Mike & Ike candies, says TechDirt! And now my worry is not just that the school was spying, and not just that it got it all wrong, but that someday kids WILL be spied on and WILL be disciplined for eating candy! Or, God forbid, homemade baked goods! (See below.) Aieeeee! — Lenore

Don’t Meth With Texas

Watch out, kids! Drug dealers are coming to your schoolyard to hook you on Strawberry crystal meth Pop Rocks! That’s the rumor going around Texas that has the PTA there so alarmed that it is warning parents to instruct their kids  not to eat, well, strawberry-flavored meth. Or grape meth. Or peanut butter meth. (Think of the allergies!) If I were the Texas PTA, I’d trademark the phrase “Meth-busters,” just to try to sound a tiny bit cool.

But, of course, I’m not them. I’m someone who read this delightful little piece on and realizes what an urban meth, er, myth this whole thing is. Nobody’s peddling strawberry-flavored meth, in part at least because you don’t EAT meth. You snort or smoke it. Moreover, if there had really been a rash of kids all rushed to the hospital in “dire” condition from candy-flavored illegal drugs, don’t you think this would be a bigger story?

What it really shows is that my premise, floated here in October, is true: Halloween has become the template for all parenting. The crazy fears we haul out on that holiday (that our neighbors are actually psychopaths who want to poison children on Halloween) have infiltrated the rest of the year (that our neighbors actually psychopaths who want to poison children on a daily basis).

Be not alarmed, my fellow citizens: There is still a big difference between Strawberry Quik and crystal meth. Although, I guess you could say they’re both pretty addicting.  — Lenore