CLEMMONS, N.C. -- On Thursday, parents with children attending Clemmons Middle School received a message from the principal saying that about 10 students had been caught drinking alcohol at the school.
The reported incident happened on Wednesday morning.
“It was kind of hush-hush and we got an email saying that they normally don’t allow parents to know about behavior issues with the school,” said Carrie Ray, mother of a Clemmons Middle School 6th grader.
The message, from Principal Sandra Hunter, said that “a student brought alcohol to school and a group of about 10 students drank it in the morning.”
“When there’s something and you’ve got 10 students involved, it’s a school-wide situation, I don’t think it’s an individual situation,” Ray said.
Theo Helm, chief of staff for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system, said that “unfortunately students bring alcohol to school from time to time,” and they “try to teach them to make better decisions.”
Helm said in the 2012-2013 school year, they had 210 instances of students caught with controlled substances. Of those 210 students, 100 of them were in middle school.
“If it happens that often it is very newsworthy and I think all the parents in all the schools should be aware of what’s going on,” Ray said.
When those students get in trouble many of them go to see Dr. Sam Gray, a clinical psychologist with Insight Human Services.
“We can see sometimes upwards of 300 to 400 kids a year who get a substance use violation,” said Dr. Gray, of students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “We’ve seen a lot more, younger children coming into our system than we have in years past.”
Gray says prevention doesn’t start at the school; instead, it starts at home.
“In most cases kids in that age group are finding, and identifying, and getting alcohol from their parents,” Dr. Gray said.
In addition to locking up the booze, Dr. Gray encourages parents to have open conversations with their children.
“If you just immediately drop down and start punishing children when they get honest with you about their substance use, that can cause them to be more secretive,” Dr. Gray said.
He continued, saying to tell your children not to “be afraid to stand up and be that one who says this is not OK and I don’t want to do this.”
“I understand she’s not perfect, she’s going to make mistakes and I’ve told her that,” said Ray, of her conversations with her daughter. “But I always want her to know that she can come to me and that we’ll work through it and we’ll be understanding.”
Helm says that last year, 60 percent of the acts they reported to the state were made up of students bringing drugs or alcohol to school; a statistic he says is comparable to other similarly-sized school districts across the state. Of all of those offenses, only one of them involved an elementary school student.
The full message from Clemmons Middle School Principal Sandra Hunter read as follows:
"This is a message for Clemmons Middle School families from Principal Sandra Hunter. Yesterday, a student brought alcohol to school and a group of about 10 students drank it in the morning. We took action immediately upon learning of it, making sure first that the students were physically safe. We will follow through on our discipline policies and make sure students act appropriately and learn from their mistakes. I don't normally send calls when students face discipline, because it is an event best handled between the student, parent and school. However, because of the rumors circulating about yesterday's events, I thought it would be best to inform you. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you."