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Tennessee pupils among most likely in nation to use drugs and alcohol

Brandon Paykamian • Jul 14, 2019 at 7:49 PM

Tennessee students are among the most likely in the nation to take drugs in high school, according to a recent report from Project Know analyzing Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance data.

Over 25% of Tennessee students admit to consuming alcohol at school. In Tennessee’s public schools, 23.7% of high school students admitted to using illegal drugs on school grounds, compared to the national average of 22.9%. 

Washington County Schools Secondary Supervisor Ashley Keys said drug and alcohol use at Daniel Boone High School and David Crockett High School always remains a concern due to the effect psychoactive substances can have on developing minds and school safety. 

Similar to other local school systems, Washington County students who unlawfully possess any narcotic, prescription drug or other controlled substance on school grounds, school vehicles or at school-sponsored activities can face suspension for one year and can face criminal charges, depending on the severity. 

“We have procedures in place so that students understand that these illicit substances are prohibited on our campuses, and they understand the consequences of bringing these items to school. In Washington County Schools, we have not seen a rise as reflected in the report; however, we cannot negate the state’s data,” Keys said.

Research figures from 2017 found that about 20% of Tennessee high school students regularly use marijuana, but the report showed high schoolers across the country are most likely to abuse and experiment with alcohol. In Tennessee, nearly 26% of students were found to consume alcohol. 

Keys, however, said school officials “see very few incidents of alcohol use each year in our high schools.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youths who drink alcohol are more likely to miss school, have poor grades, physical problems, disruption of physical and mental development, memory problems and other substance abuse issues. 

“It is of vital importance that we recognize the dangers of alcohol abuse because, in fact, over 4,300 young people die each year from excessive drinking,” the Project Know report read. 

Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Safety and Mental Health Greg Wallace said some figures can be skewed by the simple fact that some students aren’t caught using drugs on campuses, and Tennessee requires active parent permission for minors to take surveys like these. 

“Our discipline data does not reflect anywhere near the numbers reflected in this survey. While we realize that not all infractions are caught and thus subject to discipline, we believe that our mental health support, as part of our comprehensive safety plan, helps support a variety of student concerns,” he said. “Many of the concerns we address through our programs could result in increased negative behavior without the appropriate interventions.”

To take a look at the full Project Know report, as well as national and other state data, visit www.projectknow.com

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