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Columbia County schools have more drug cases than Richmond County

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 1:27 AM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 8:07 AM
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Despite being one of the highest performing school systems in the state, Columbia County had almost double the drug cases as the lesser achieving Richmond County over the last three years and had a particular presence that its neighbor did not: prescription pills.

The overwhelming drug of choice in both districts was marijuana, but more than 30 percent of Columbia County’s 296 cases involved pills, while just 11 percent of Richmond County’s 164 cases did, according to three years of incident reports reviewed by The Augusta Chronicle.

Statistics can be swayed by the strength of enforcement and detection by campus safety officers as well as their diligence in reporting the offenses. However representatives from both districts told The Chronicle their policy is to file a report for every drug found on campus.

Susan Porter, of The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, said that dynamic makes sense given the demographics of the districts. Columbia County is whiter and wealthier with more access to health care – the most common traits in users and abusers of prescription pills.

“What you’re seeing is sort of a contradiction of public perception that substance abuse is more prevalent among minority, low-income populations, which isn’t necessarily true at all,” said Porter, the vice president and director of policy research and analysis at CASA. “The prescription pill issue is tightly linked to accessibility, availability and the types of issues that the parents of these kids are being treated for.”

The top three prescription drugs found in Columbia County – a district that is about 70 percent white with just a third of kids on free or reduced lunch – were hydrocodone, Adderall and Xanax.

According to the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, hydrocodone was the fourth-most-common drug found in overdoses in 2010.

Of all overdose deaths in the state in 2010, 85 percent involved prescription pills, and whites accounted for 90 percent of those deaths, according to GDNA.

Columbia County Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Robert Jarrell said despite the numbers, he doesn’t believe there is necessarily a drug problem in his schools.

With an average 24,000 students at the time, the roughly 300 drug cases over the last three years make up a small pool of offenders, one that is an unfortunate expectation in today’s society.

“I don’t see it as a huge concern,” he said. “Certainly our schools are a reflection of society. We do have those issues, and we’re going to see those issues, but I don’t see it as a huge problem.”

Both Richmond and Columbia counties’ school safety departments perform monthly drug checks of cars and lockers with K-9 units at the schools. Almost all incidents involving drugs result in a tribunal hearing and an assignment to the alternative programs in each county, with the sentence depending on the offense. In Columbia County all drug cases are reported to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, but not all are prosecuted, according to Capt. Steve Morris. In Richmond County, school safety handles the cases and brings in the sheriff’s office for more serious incidents.

Richmond County Chief Alfonzo Williams said officers must build relationships at the schools to educate students about the dangers of drugs and help them feel comfortable enough to report drugs on campus.

Richmond County schools, which are 73 percent black and where 78 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, had a stronger presence of marijuana than any other drug and had about seven offenses in elementary schools, while Columbia County had none in those grades, according to the reports.

“A lot of it depends on intelligence reported from other students,” Williams said. “We bring a number of folks from the gang task force, and we educate about awareness, prevention and all of that helps curb the problem.”

Richard Epter, the medical director at the Augusta Pain Center, said parents also have to play a role in ensuring children don’t have access to pain medication at home.

He said when misused, pain medication can be highly addictive. Over the last two decades, pain medicine has replaced illicit drugs as the leading cause of overdose deaths and has become an appealing high for young people.

For that, his staff counsels all patients on safe storage of pain medicine and how to keep them away from children. He said the most common way people get prescription drugs illicitly are from friends and family, and that includes children who take pills from their parents’ medicine cabinets.

“Their friends who may visit their homes search through their medicine cabinets and obtain the drugs as well,” Epter said. It’s scary.”

Marty Jackson, the head football coach of the Evans High School, said he knows pills have a presence in Columbia County schools but it’s not a subject that is brought up by students to him often. When he taught health classes, he explained the dangers and addictions of drugs but said he never viewed it as a crisis at his school.

He remembers being a student at a Catholic high school in Alabama back in 1978, where drugs always filtered in and out. However he recognized the drugs of choice have evolved, and students have to be aware of the dangers.

“It’s just a fact of life,” he said. “When I was a kid, there was smoke coming out of the bathrooms and billowing in the hallways. We do our best to teach the dangers, and that’s what we do.”

By the numbers

The Augusta Chronicle looked at drugs found at schools from the 2010-2011 until 2012-2013 school years.

Columbia County

Average enrollment: 24,000

Total drug cases: 296

Marijuana: 52 percent

Prescription pills: 30 percent

Remaining cases: Paraphernalia, over-the-counter meds, unidentified

The top three most common pills:

Hydrocodone: Pain management

Adderall: Commonly treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorders or narcolepsy

Xanax: Used to treat anxiety and panic disorders

Richmond County

Average enrollment: 31,000

Total drug cases: 164

Marijuana: 77 percent

Prescription pills: 11 percent

Remaining cases: Paraphernalia, over the counter meds, unidentified

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soapy_725
44164
Points
soapy_725 12/07/13 - 04:43 am
1
0
Go Greenbrier !! Go you spoiled preppies. Go Go
Unpublished

Go Greenbrier!! Go Go Go

Truth Matters
8098
Points
Truth Matters 12/07/13 - 07:29 am
6
1
"What you’re seeing is sort

"What you’re seeing is sort of a contradiction of public perception that substance abuse is more prevalent among minority, low-income populations, which isn’t necessarily true at all,”

Nothing new here. Anyone who has spent time around schools already knew this. That public perception is a bear.

Truth Matters
8098
Points
Truth Matters 12/07/13 - 07:29 am
4
1
"What you’re seeing is sort

"What you’re seeing is sort of a contradiction of public perception that substance abuse is more prevalent among minority, low-income populations, which isn’t necessarily true at all,”

Nothing new here. Anyone who has spent time around schools already knew this. That public perception is a bear.

RunningMan
346
Points
RunningMan 12/07/13 - 08:33 am
9
1
The Last Time I Looked

Davidson Fine Arts and AR Johnson were among the top performing schools in the state and both are from Richmond County. Don't fool yourself in thinking RC somehow just have low minority, under performing schools and CC has better. If anything this article proves that the AC is just searching for something that most of us already know - money don't bring true happiness and it surely don't stop you from doing wrong. And why AC are your articles so quick to point out the black and white populations % in RC and CC. I'm sure most of you readers already know that. When will you all learn? It's not about skin color anymore.

jbartley
619
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jbartley 12/07/13 - 11:49 am
9
0
the truth is out.

Columbia county students have the money to buy drugs, thank God it is final being covered by the news. You can't fix a problem until you admit you have one.

fishman960
1504
Points
fishman960 12/07/13 - 12:10 pm
6
1
Pharmaceuticals

It should be no secret that the pill makers want to expand their user base at all costs.
Big conglomerates do not care about the people, they only care about their bottom line. They need funds to make new, more effective drugs so they can stay on top.
Where else are they going to find that cash flow? Certainly not the poorer population. So they go for the richer population.
I will wager that most households in CC have at least one script among them for pain. Combine that with children witnessing their parent or parents freely popping these things like candy and what do you have?
A bunch of little pill poppers that see nothing wrong with taking all these addictive medications. And the best part? Most of the time it is a legal prescription.

grinder48
2066
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grinder48 12/07/13 - 12:59 pm
0
0
Free?
Unpublished

What's with all the stats comparing blacks and whites? Seems very out of touch with the times. And how many qualify for free or reduced price lunches. We have what, something like 43 million people on food stamps and many getting free lunch on top of that? Here's a novel idea. How about having a President who backs policies to stimulate job growth and putting these people to work instead of giving them a free ride ... whatever their color?!

Just My Opinion
6306
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Just My Opinion 12/07/13 - 08:08 pm
11
0
My kids are in different CC

My kids are in different CC schools and they both cite drug use and bullying is almost an EVERYDAY occurrence! Money is certainly a HUGE contributing issue. I think you can also throw in that the CC parents are probably just as "disconnected" from their kids as the RC parents are always accused of being. Not knowing what your kid is doing or who they're with is the start of the problems.
As far as bullying, I can't speak about other CC schools, but I know for a fact that there IS a bullying problem at Evans Middle School, despite what it's Principal claims. Just because he gets on TV and claims that "There is no bullying problem here.", doesn't make it so. The question is does he really believe that or is he just trying to convince the rest of us and the Board of Ed, who don't want to admit that there's a problem in the school right in their backyard!

Riverman1
94457
Points
Riverman1 12/07/13 - 09:19 pm
8
1
Well, yeah, excessive,

Well, yeah, excessive, undirected, prescription drug use by affluent people of all ages is the biggest drug problem in the nation.

fedex227
11187
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fedex227 12/07/13 - 10:41 pm
2
1
.
Unpublished

.

What next
53
Points
What next 12/07/13 - 11:20 pm
5
6
we catch them

Maybe Columbia County is better at catching them, or cares enough to catch them instead of just looking the other way.

KSL
144947
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KSL 12/08/13 - 05:52 am
5
1
Well kids with families with

Well kids with families with way more money over here where I live did more drugs than those who went to the school where mine went. Nothing new here since drugs became a problem.

KSL
144947
Points
KSL 12/08/13 - 05:54 am
4
1
What next

I am speaking of a decades ago. I cannot speak for now. But that was definitely the case then. And why would it have changed?

BCB
13
Points
BCB 12/08/13 - 03:13 am
5
0
Really?!

First, the authorship of this article is sub standard to say the least. Lesser performing schools in Richmond County? I'll be the first to admit that Columbia County has more schools that achieve excellence, but for a writer who writes about education in the CSRA, she clearly decided to ignore the accomplishments of two of Richmond County's magnet PUBLIC high schools. Aside from the pathetic but widely known fact about drugs in our schools, the writer insists on perpetuating the issues of race in the area. Drugs are NOT a black student/ white student problem. Although there are two separate schools districts in the area, the drug problem should be the concern of all citizens in BOTH counties.

Riverman1
94457
Points
Riverman1 12/08/13 - 05:21 am
7
3
Blacks and Whites Illegal Drug Use

For what it’s worth, there are certain differences in drug use by blacks and whites and that carry over to Richmond and Columbia counties in general. Columbia County is basically illegal use of prescription drugs while Richmond County is mainly crack.

KSL
144947
Points
KSL 12/08/13 - 05:58 am
3
4
BCB, you can defend the

BCB, you can defend the schools without insulting the reporter.

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 12/08/13 - 06:47 am
4
2
Not so fast river it is
Unpublished

Not so fast river it is never that simple.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 12/08/13 - 08:15 am
5
1
Bullying?

I would love to know where parents think their little darlings learn that behavior? Last time I checked there were not any bullying 101 classes. They learn it at home by siblings and even parents, at school among peers, and in other social venues. I am so sick and tired of parents blaming schools for bullying. I never purposely recall bullying anyone at school because I was taught by my parents to respect others. Stop blaming the schools and look to the root of the problem - the children themselves. We are growing up in a networked world that makes these mean "girls and boys" jobs so much easier. Who is providing them with access to social media? Good old mom and dad! If there was some real discipline at home instead of finger pointing at schools then maybe it would end. But once again here is a rude awaking for those with their heads stuck in the sand - bullying has been going on for years!! As to drugs in schools where are they getting them? At home where parents are not securing them in locked cabinets. If your kids bring home friends that snoop and steal them from your home then prosecute. I don't care if you think it will not make you popular in your fancy upscale neighborhood. Better to show these kids now what the real world is like than let them turn up dead from an overdose.

nocnoc
49787
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nocnoc 12/08/13 - 09:16 am
4
0
Kids CC vs. ARC

CC has a cleaner teen social environment so those using stand out as the Oddity.

itsanotherday1
48435
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itsanotherday1 12/08/13 - 10:17 am
4
0
JMO is correct about ColCo,

JMO is correct about ColCo, and I think the same is true everywhere when comparing demographics of schools.

We left Richmond County to have our children in better schools, and would do it again; but that doesn't mean that ColCo is without its own problems.

Whether with prescription drugs, street drugs, or alcohol; our entire country has a problem with getting their fix.

itsanotherday1
48435
Points
itsanotherday1 12/08/13 - 10:21 am
5
0
High on hydrocodone?

Forgive my naivety, but how does one get high on pain killer; a drug that by design will put you to sleep? I take one and can't much tell it, but two will send me looking for a place to nap; hardly a "high".

harley_52
26136
Points
harley_52 12/08/13 - 10:29 am
5
0
"Columbia County is basically illegal use of ....

....Columbia County is basically illegal use of prescription drugs while Richmond County is mainly crack."

Not according to this Article. The drug of choice for both Counties (according to Tracey McManus) is Marijuana.

I don't even see a listing for "crack" unless it's "unidentifed" which means its some small percentage of a sub-set.

How did you reach the conclusion that "crack" is the drug of choice in Richmond County?

Just make it up?

itsanotherday1
48435
Points
itsanotherday1 12/08/13 - 10:29 am
4
0
One more thing

The Richmond Co comparison numbers are meaningless, and here is why: "A lot of it depends on intelligence reported from other students,” Williams said."

Kids from the "hood" learn early on that you don't snitch. That, and the searches done by ColCo could make a huge difference in cases MADE.

Let me be clear (in my best Obama imitation), COLUMBIA COUNTY NUMBERS ARE STILL SHAMEFUL, regardless of what ARC or any other county has.

harley_52
26136
Points
harley_52 12/08/13 - 10:41 am
3
0
"Kids from the "hood" learn early on that you don't snitch....

....That, and the searches done by ColCo could make a huge difference in cases MADE."

Are you suggesting that kids from more affluent families are running in and "snitching" on their friends who are doing drugs in Columbia County?

Do you think it's only kids from "the hood" in Richmond County who do drugs, or is it at least possible some Richmond County kids who do drugs also live in nice homes?

avidreader
3572
Points
avidreader 12/08/13 - 10:52 am
2
0
The Culture!

Kids are going to consume drugs, no matter what measures are taken by a school system. Some are bolder than others. Some are smarter, and some are more careless. The kids in Columbia County are probably a bit more fearless.

I often smell the lingering odor of weed in the hallways when the first bell rings in the morning. But never at later times. I guess some of the kids need a little boost so they can better concentrate on math or reading.

I think the point Ms. McManus is making is that financial affluency dictates a higher expense. And statistics show that low-income populations do not have the same access to expensive narcotics. Statistics also show that most of our low-income population in Richmond County is African American. It's not a racial thing; the writer is merely expressing numbers based on availability.

My opinion is, excellent, balanced reporting.

Amen!

harley_52
26136
Points
harley_52 12/08/13 - 10:56 am
3
0
High on hydrocodone?

I don't think sleepiness is the effect many/most people experience with many pain killers, including hydrocodone. Generally speaking, I think people are moved to a state where their pains (and blues) go away and they "feel good," or "feel mellow" about life in general and are able to forget about whatever might be bothering them at the time.

harley_52
26136
Points
harley_52 12/08/13 - 10:57 am
3
0
"My opinion is, excellent, balanced reporting."

Mine too.

I agree with your assessment as well.

Riverman1
94457
Points
Riverman1 12/08/13 - 11:06 am
4
0
Harley, I wasn't referring to

Harley, I wasn't referring to kids only. I had a friend who went to the Richmond County jail and he told me 90% of the black guys were in for crack and 90% of the whites for pills. Not a scientific study by any means, but I believe that's a valid observation. It's not something original to me by any means. Interesting what you said about marijuana, too. I can believe that for the lesser drugs in both counties.

Understand, if I could have my way, I'd decriminalize drug use of all kinds and use the saved money for education and treatment. Keeping this many people in jail is unsustainable.

harley_52
26136
Points
harley_52 12/08/13 - 11:11 am
3
2
"Not a scientific study by any means....

....but I believe that's a valid observation."

Oh, okay. You had a friend who gave you specific percentages for drug use based upon his one visit to one jail and you've concluded it's a "valid observation."

Got it.

"Interesting what you said about marijuana, too. I can believe that for the lesser drugs in both counties."

It's not really what I said, it's what Ms. McManus said and she has done the research, not me. In the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary, I'll take her word for it.

fishman960
1504
Points
fishman960 12/08/13 - 11:17 am
3
0
Hydrocodone

I knew a female that would take oxy and chop it up, then snort it. I think that might be a little more prevalent than we know. I also knew a man that would that "ice" and gulp it down like candy.
There are a lot of aspects about drugs that a person that is not around them actually know about.

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