Behind closed bathroom doors

Dec. 19, 2002, midnight | By Alex Piazza | 18 years, 1 month ago

Recent growth in drug deals worries administration

A Blair student was threatened at knifepoint during a drug transaction in a Blair boys' bathroom last Friday, according to an eyewitness who does not wish to be named. The threatened student was selling marijuana when the buyer, unsatisfied with the amount he was given, took out a knife. The dealer fled from the scene with both the money and the marijuana. The armed student did not pursue him.

Although nobody was harmed, the incident highlights a recurring security issue that is leaving some administrators frustrated as they search for ways to combat what several describe as an increasing marijuana trade centralized in Blair's bathrooms.

According to an informal Silver Chips poll conducted during the week of Nov 18, 66 percent of male students have witnessed a marijuana deal take place in a Blair bathroom.

Dealing drugs in Blair's bathrooms is quick and "painless," as one dealer explained, and it's over in a matter of seconds. "You go into a stall, close the door, exchange the bud and the money, and walk out—it's that easy." Almost half of his deals in Blair take place in a bathroom because they are camera-free, secluded areas where the transactions can go unchecked.

The monitoring cameras in Blair have been little help in catching those responsible for Blair's drug trade and seem to prevent deals only in areas where the cameras are present. The problem is prevalent in bathrooms and other secluded areas, and all that the security team can do is intermittently patrol the areas and look for suspicious activities, a technique that has worked only on occasion.

Twelfth-grade Assistant Principal Linda Wanner has noticed a recent increase in reports of students warning administrators of the bathroom security issue. She says the recent Chips survey doesn't surprise her. "The students say we're totally unaware of the situation," Wanner explained. "It fits with what I suspect and what we need to address."

Wanner, who has already taken an active role in trying to increase teacher participation by asking staff to monitor the student bathrooms instead of routinely going to staff-only bathrooms, said that she sees the problem primarily as a health issue. "We just need to get help to students so that they're free and healthy," said Wanner.

The pervasiveness of the bathroom-based drug trade in Blair did, however, surprise Principal Phillip Gainous. "This is news to me," he said.

Gainous feels that if the problem is as prevalent as students say, then further action should be taken. In discussing the issue of students dealing drugs, he alluded to a student-government-initiated program at Blair approximately ten years ago that won Blair the title of the most drug-free school in Montgomery County. The program pressured team captains and club presidents to pledge sobriety, hopefully encouraging other students to follow suit.

The key, Gainous explained, lies in soliciting student involvement. "All we have is eight security staff and six administrators," he expanded. "The answer is going to be if 3,200 other folk decide we don't want this behavior."

More than anything else, Gainous emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach to the issue. "The students have to be involved; the parents have to be involved; the whole school community has to be involved to take ownership of this problem," Gainous said.

Security Team Leader Edward Reddick said that he agrees that the problem can't be pinpointed to a specific weakness in the system and that a multi-pronged attack is necessary. "We need to make kids aware of the fact that marijuana is not innocent," Reddick said. "It's just as important to educate kids about the drug as it is to try to prevent it."

Now that the face of the drug problem is starting to reveal itself, Gainous said, the time has come to take action. "We've been on alert waiting for its ugly head to rise," he explained. "Now, it's about safety in Blair."

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Alex Piazza. Alex Piazza is a junior page editor for Silver Chips, one of the better newspapers of the world. While participating in the CAP program, he also plays for the varsity soccer team and plays in an out-of-school band, playing an eclectic mix of styles. Alex … More »

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