Article

‘DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE RAMPANT AT TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL,’ SAYS VARSITY MOM … plus … ADDED SECURITY, FLOOD OF COUNSELORS SEND WRONG MESSAGE TO NATION’S SCHOOL KIDS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, DEC. 18, 2012) — Only four more days until the Mayan calendar runs out, so why bother with Christmas shopping?

We cannot, though, put off sharing this take of what’s going on at Taconic High School from a mom who calls herself The Varsity. She says she was inspired by  outrageous claims made by a couple of correspondents to this website, justifying the behavior of the Taconic High School football coaching staff and several of the Taconic senior footballers in an incident that has become Tailgate-gate.

Varsity Mom was particularly upset at a comment made by Mr. Football Player in response to THE PLANET’s coverage of Tailgate-gate, particularly this portion of a comment left on Dec. 14:

“Also, it is a known fact that teens drink. It happens. It is part of high school, and for your information, Mr. Valenti, drugs are not a problem at our [Taconic] school. Not only is this city full of cops that are notably brilliant at their jobs. They have also stepped up the past month and been [sic] making this city a lot different. Taconic is not full of druggies. If anything we are making strives [sic] toward greatness. We have programs like SADD and great teachers to help keep it clean.” — Mr. Football Player

Before Varsity Mom has her say, THE PLANET offers a few observations on this portion of Mr. Football Player’s testimony.

1. He admits drinking is a problem at Taconic.

2. He admits students were drinking.

3. He admits the coaches didn’t know about it, and yet these same adults are in charge of the kids’ behavior.

4. We fail to see the relevance of the ridiculous, meaningless statement: “The city is full of cops.”

5. THE PLANET has no idea what Mr. Football means by his reference to the police “stepping up” in the last month to “[make] this city a lot different.” Different? How? In what way, specifically? And what does that have to do with Tailgate-gate? Did Mr. Football mean for it to be a McGuffin, that is, a non sequitur meant to divert our attention from the issue at hand, which is the behavior of the Taconic footballers and their coaches?

High above the influence.

6. “Taconic is not full of druggies,” Mr. Football says. THE PLANET asks why he would see the need to make that statement. No one ever said the school was full of druggies. Certainly, THE PLANET would not make such a claim.

7. We would ask Mr. Football, again, to detail with specifics his blanket statement of “we” striding “toward greatness.” How so, specifically? How do you define “greatness?” Do you do it by the football record? By MCAS test scores? What?

We will also share with our readers that late last week, we contacted Taconic Principal John Vosburgh about Tailgate-gate. We shared with him information that THE PLANET’s investigation has turned up. We have presented this information to Vosburgh, saying that we believe, based on our due diligence, that the information is accurate and reflects the truth of what happened., asking Vosburgh for his comments.

We now, publicly, request Vosburgh to contact us. In addition:

— We are requesting Vosburgh’s comments, on the record, about what happened during Tailgate-gate. In other words, in the name of We The People, THE PLANET requests from the Taconic High School administration its official version of what took place. Enough time has passed. What, if anything, happened?

— We are requesting the administration to take the information we have presented to it — which, as we have stated, represent the facts of the case as best as we could determine them in our investigation — and let us know: Is the information accurate? If so, tell us. If not, tell us (a) which statements are not accurate and (b) what the truth is.

IF WE DO NOT HEAR FROM THE TACONIC ADMINISTRATION BY THE END OF THE WEEK, WE SHALL TAKE THAT AS A CONFIRMATION OF WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED AND WILL BE SHARING THAT INFORMATION WITH THE PUBLIC.  MOREOVER, WE SHALL TAKE THE ADMINISTRATION’S SILENCE AS CONFIRMATION OF WHAT OUR INVESTIGATION HAVE UNCOVERED.

Now, on to Varsity Mom, Who Has Her Say:

Whoever posted that they know for a fact that there is police presence and no drug use is either a student, friend of [Alf] Barbalunga or a teacher or staff member.  However, they are lying if they are either, and if NOT, they have their head buried in the sand and/or live in Candy Land.
I have a 19-year-old son who graduated from Taconic two years ago and a 15-year-old daughter who is there right now.  I have always dropped my kids off to and from that school.  We have had many discussions on drug and alcohol abuse.  I like to keep a healthy, open, and honest dialogue with them, because addiction runs in both sides of their family.  They have seen the worst of addiction and how it affects family and have come up with their own judgments, fears, and curiosities.
They are also very popular and well-liked kids, and have been offered both drugs and alcohol in the school and on school property.  My son’s friends know he will say no but still make the offer anyway.  They have actually smoked [marijuana] while walking around casually on school property as if they are smoking a cigarette.  Mostly pot smoking occurs in the bathrooms and behind the school in the woods, but it is a well known fact, not only by the students but also the shop teachers, that drug use is rampant in shop classes:  mostly pot, but other drugs are also available.  Both of my children have seen money exchanged for drugs in the school.  And Taconic is NOT the only school that this is happening at.  PHS is a haven for the same drug behavior.
I asked my children about police presence and NEITHER of them have ever seen a cop in the school.  My son said only when they were called for an emergency in the past, but it is not a regular, protective occurrence to have police walking around keeping things safe.  When I dropped them off at Reid, there was always a police officer out front, and during the day he or she was there to keep things safe, though they were not helpful with bullying, but that’s another story.
I think it’s dangerous for someone to paint a false picture of what our kids have to see and deal with on an everyday basis.  They have to deal with temptation.  They have had to learn how to say “no” to something they know can ruin their lives, and as a parent I have to worry that they will some day give in to that temptation, because where I bring them [to school] on a daily basis has this to offer. It’s a different world from where I come from, and to say that everything has improved and is progressing completely discredits our children and what they have to face on a DAILY BASIS.
Any kind of drug that you could imagine is for sale at the schools, but mostly marijuana.  Alcohol is being used by students during the day.  No, it’s not a teen-age party all the time; it is secretive.  Kids know how to hide from adults and lie to them.  Do you remember being a teenager and how much your parents didn’t know?  How much you got away with, only to laugh about it later?  Well, they are no different than we were, only they have a much harsher and more dangerous reality.  We should never discredit them by pretending everything is just fine because all you’re doing is pushing them away and setting them up for failure.
This topic — out-of-control drug and alcohol use at Taconic High School — is too important not to bring to light. — VARSITY MOM
 —– 00 —–

There is a lot to digest here. Take your Bromo-Bismo-Pepto-Seltzer and start the job.

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ADDED SECURITY AT ALREADY PRISONED-DOWN SCHOOLS SENDS THE WROND MESSAGE

In the inevitably predictable aftermath of the Newtown grade school shootings, authorities are giving the 20-year-old gunman total victory by their “too much too late” overreaction. Schools nationwide have teamed up with local law enforcement officials to close the barn door after the prized pintos have bolted.

Schools are (a) reviewing security plann, (b) beefing up law enforcement presence on campuses, and (c) sending in a flood of counselors. The first is something they already do, ad infinitum. The second adds to the non-academic atmosphere of schools where “the scholarly mein” has all but vanished (due mainly to lack of proper dress, lack of enforcement of existing policies, and administrative fear of lawsuits from the crackpot “one in a hundred”). The third will send a lot of well-meaning “experts” onto the scene to mess around where they have no place. The place is the property of parents, loved ones, and teachers, who know and love the children more than and better than anyone. Having said that, THE PLANET loves to therapy dogs that have been sent to Newtown to help children and adults grieve. Dogs should be the only “expert counselors” allowed inside the already disturbed minds of the people most affected.

Kids Are Resilient

These well-intentioned actions ignore a fact pointed out by our good friend, the estimable Charlie Garivaltis, in a comment left on the weekend post, and that is the phenomenal resilience of children. Kids get over stuff if adults let them.

However, by adding these measures (a, b, and c) to the already saturated media coverage, adults reinforce to children that the proper demeanor at school is one of perpetual anxiety. That’s the wrong message to send. The right message? Back to business as usual. School districts across the country would be far better off to stick to their usual security provisions, decline extra police presence, tell the counselors “thanks, but no thanks,” and get on with the finishing up of school prior to the already-scheduled Christmas break.

That’s the best way to “get over” this tragedy. “Get over” is in quotes, though, because those in Newtown will likely never “get over” what happened.

In Newtown, of course, recovery won’t be that easy. One would hope school will be canceled until January, allowing parents and children together time, the only true balm for healing.

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THE ONE BEST PROVISIONAL ASPECT OF TRUE SECURITY COMES FROM WITHIN, FROM THE ACQUISITION OF INNER PEACE, FROM A FEARLESS CONFIDENCE IN LIFE, FROM THE GOOD DECISIONS OF THE HUMAN HEART. SECURITY WILL NOT COME FROM ANY LAWS.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

29 Responses to “‘DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE RAMPANT AT TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL,’ SAYS VARSITY MOM … plus … ADDED SECURITY, FLOOD OF COUNSELORS SEND WRONG MESSAGE TO NATION’S SCHOOL KIDS”

  1. GMHeller
    December 18, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Varsity Mom,
    Your descriptions of what life is like inside THS and PHS make it sound as though neither institution possesses an atmosphere conducive to learning and receiving a good education.
    If things are indeed that bad at these two public schools, would you consider and recommend home-schooling as a viable alternative?

    • Varsity
      December 18, 2012 at 4:26 am #

      Absolutely.

  2. dusty
    December 18, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    After watching how things go in Pittsfield regarding school and education oversight I have come to the conclusion that the people in charge, school committee in particular, are more concerned with the pinata that is the school budget than educating children. They seem to be more concerned about how big the budget is and who controls it. They definitely do not want anyone questioning the money part, especially how it is distributed. This speaks volumes about the people we entrust to educate our children. I wish for New Years that someone finds a way to get the phonies off the Pittsfield school committee and truly concerned people on it. And in Pittsfield that is a pretty ambitious wish.

  3. Mr. X
    December 18, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    I had a child graduate from Taconic in 2005 and talked about a similar situation as Varsity mom and her kids at the school. I also had a best friend’s son who graduated last year, he told me about obvious pot and alcohol activity right there in the school building during the day, everyday. I guess not much has changed in 8 years.

  4. Layla Lady Lay
    December 18, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    My children went to PHS. The drug and drinking situation was similar to what Varsity Mom describes. A nephew is at THS senior this year and he laughed in his mom’s face when she asked him about drugs if they were hard to get.

  5. AMBROSE
    December 18, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Between 11:30 and 1:00 daily there’s a group of 10 to 20 students on the sidewalk next to the skateboard park smoking something, probably cigarettes. We have strange laws. You must be 18 to buy tobacco but you can smoke in the crib.

    • Ed Shepardson
      December 18, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the cigs. Not many of these kids wear helmets. More likely to end up on a ventilator.. I have a friend who treats juvenile traumatic brain injury victims. Every time the Eagle runs a photo of Pittsfield’s skate park showing kids without helmets, I get this email from her “The world needs more organ donors.”

  6. danvalenti
    December 18, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    I like Mr. Heller’s phrase: “an environment conducive to learning.” That’s what the schools MUST provide, and they are not doing that, much to the chagrin of teachers. Kids rule the classrooms, from their manner of dress, to the gutter levels of language and behavior. The key challenge in the Pittsfield Public School system right now has nothing to do with MCAS or academics. It’s re-establishing an “atmosphere conducive to learning.” This is a an academic environment that conveys a scholarly attitude. It is easier to achieve that one might realize. It begins with the dress code. Quickest way there: School uniforms.

    • Varsity
      December 18, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      I agree. It takes the focus off status, and everyone is an equal. Then real learning can take place. And a uniform gives kids a sense of responsibility and a level of confidence. No one walks around sneering at others, no one gets bullied for being different.

  7. PITTSFIELD BELIEVER
    December 18, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    PB’s E-MAIL HAS BEEN REDACTED DUE TO ITS RIDICULOUS ASSERTIONS. PB IS WARNED: STAY ON TOPIC. DELIBERATE ATTEMPTS TO DERAIL THE CHAiN OF THOUGHT WITH NON-SEQUITURS WILL BE TRASHED.

    • Ed Shepardson
      December 18, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Actually, Dan is in the witness protection program. Or so I’m told. His real name is Arnold. Arnold Bulger, brother of Whitey and Billy.

      • danvalenti
        December 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

        ED
        How did you find out?

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      PB
      We allowed your ridiculous message to go through so that we may use as a teaching moment. Folks, notice how PB has tried to conveniently tried to derail the conversation. This happens all the time with the GOB. They are scared by this new information medium called the Internet. As everyone knows, we run, operate, and fund THE PLANET solely with private resources. Notice also PB’s use of the phrase “crusading types.” Does he mean such patriots as THE PLANET, Terry Kinnas, Ken Ramsdell, Jonathan Levine, and others who aren’t afraid to poke around in We The People’s business and ask questions, God forbid? We are “immune” from letting small minds such as PB influence us. As for our muscle, we do have friends who play rough. perhaps PB would like us to make a phone call and meet some. Meanwhile, have a Merry Christmas. Don’t stay up late obsessing over THE PLANET and the influence we might have on events, OK?

    • Scott
      December 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

      Too bad you should have left the email up.

      • Larry
        December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

        Wish I had the chance to see The PB’s BS!

        • danvalenti
          December 19, 2012 at 6:39 am #

          LARRY
          It was a cynical exercise in misdirection. He thinks I’m Tony Soprano or something, a fantasy that has nothing to do with the topic we are discussing.

  8. JB
    December 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    PB’s been reading too much John D McDonald

  9. JB
    December 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    PB’s been reading too much John D McDonald

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      Or watching too much, “The Sopranos.”

      • JB
        December 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        Dan…would you mind terribly if I started referring to you as Travis McGee? I have no idea why I suddenly thought of these pulp novels. I vividly remember one set in the Allendale motel next to what used to be the only McDonald’s in Pittsfield. I read them while cruising at the behest of Uncle Sam in the Mediterranean in the late 70″S

  10. Scott
    December 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    It’s interesting to me that I can have a logical discussion on guns in America with my 11 year old and he see’s the idiocy of it all. Especially when I point out to him a person can drink and drive have an accident resulting in the death of someone and their right to ever own a gun again is gone on offense one (at least in Ma. I’m not sure if it’s a life time federal dis-qualifier .) but with in five years they’ll be back on the road again. The hypocrisy is astounding especially since driving is a privileged and gun ownership is a right.

    About the stuff @ Taconic I know for a fact it’s true. I had a kid work a little with me this past summer and he said it’s bad there any drug you want.

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      Thanks you, SCOTT. THE PLANET has heard from many parents. They all confirm what VARSITY MOM has written. Still, the PPS and its apologists pretend All Is Well.

  11. CONCERNED
    December 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Wow Dan go back 20-30 years, nothing has changed, different faces that all. What has changed is the Feds, State,locals bleeding hearts and poured tons of money to fight it and IT HAS NOT CHANGED

  12. Bain hater
    December 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Dan. Do you really think this problem is only in Pittsfield ? My Aunt worked at Monument Mountain and told me some of the same stories. She even told me about the sophomore student who got 3 different girls pregnant! It’s just not in Pittsfield …

    • Scott
      December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      The more the town has money the sleazier and grimier it get’s I’m sure.

    • Berkshire Girl
      December 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      I guess the difference in this particular case is that a school employee wasn’t renting (I assume) a hotel room for these kids to have sex in and giving them a ride to the hotel…

  13. dbdog
    December 19, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    I agree with at least a dress code, maybe not uniforms as parents will complain about the cost. My dad once told me that if something wasn’t for sale you shouldn’t advertise it. Ever drive by PHS at lunch time? If a dress code can’t be enforced in school, how can any other rules?

    • LV
      December 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      I spent $500 on school clothes and shoes for my teenage daughter this year. I estimated that if there were a uniform, parents could get away with spending less than $220.

  14. dbdog
    December 20, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I do remember that you had to dress just so to fit in or be ridiculed at SJH and PHS too. Maybe uniforms would help take some of the many pressures off the young people. They have enough as it is. I just have a problem with maturing young folks looking like they’re advertising something. OK, I’m a prude. But do you remember the raging hormones??