Transition forum cautions parents on incidents with Lakenheath kids
Stars and Stripes May 8, 2008
RAF FELTWELL, England — Prescription drug abuse, students cutting themselves and semi-nude images of high-school partygoers posted on the Internet are some of the incidents reported at RAF Lakenheath’s schools.
Ninetta Brown, the liaison officer for the schools, recently launched “Student Transition Forums” with school counselors and base support officials to inform parents about issues kids face when moving on to higher-level schools. The second of three one-hour forums, held on Tuesday at Lakenheath Middle School, drew only a few parents.
“Kids will be kids no matter where they attend,” Brown said. “We just want parents to be aware of these subjects.”
One key issue was easy access to social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. These sites are intended to stay in touch with friends but can also be used inappropriately.
Roger Volk and Linda Leon, from RAF Lakenheath’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Services, brought up examples of Internet misuse. Scandalous images taken at a party, then posted onto MySpace, quickly spread throughout the high school. The incident resulted in two students being kicked off the school’s soccer and cheerleading teams, Volk said.
Leon said that middle school students even used Facebook to promote a school fight.
“So at the school everyone gathered around the staircase for a ringside boxing match,” she said in the forum.
Students can also be vulnerable to online sex predators on these sites, Brown said. She suggests parents educate themselves on the sites their children visit and obtain the passwords of their child’s accounts so they can check up on them. “We don’t want them to ban their children [from using the Internet],” Brown said.
Another hot topic was alcohol and drug use at the schools.
“I guarantee your child will have the chance to do alcohol and drugs,” Volk said in the forum.
Volk pointed out a few incidents involving high school students abusing the prescribed medications Percocet and Ritalin. “It feels unusual to them. That’s what they do,” he said of the drugs’ side effects.
If students do commit criminal acts, they could appear before Lakenheath’s family member misconduct board, said Roger Davis, 48th Mission Support Group deputy civilian.
Since March, the newly initiated board has heard three cases, mostly dealing with students possessing alcohol on school grounds. One dependent was referred to counseling and 20 hours of community service, Davis said.
“It’s not a court of law,” Davis said. “It’s an administrative action board.”
Michelle Johnson, a 48th Component Maintenance Squadron spouse with children in the sixth and eighth grades, said the forum made her feel the schools cared about students. “It lets me know that there are people out there looking for ways to help children’s welfare,” she said.