Editor's note: Donna Dudley presented this letter to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday. After hearing it, we thought it would be appropriate to present to the community as a whole. It has been edited only for format.
I bring an unorthodox subject to you tonight. As a town, I believe we have a monumentally important, teachable moment in front of us. I’d like to talk about drugs.
There seem to be a lot of misconceptions out there about who ‘does drugs’ and who doesn’t. I believe the public needs to become better informed about this complicated problem and to be better informed by the town about how you are addressing it and the ways in which the average person/parent can help, beyond the obvious.
I include alcohol in my definition of drugs. I can tell you exactly what kind of student does or experiments with drugs & alcohol:
- Honor roll students\Average students
- Athletes/ non-athletes
- Kids that have been thru Dare & Decisions
- Kids that are natural risk takers
- Kids that are struggling with their sexuality/ kids that are not
- Kids that are struggling with stress, anxiety and/or depression/ kids that don’t struggle with anything
- Kids that are easily influenced by peers, / and kids that are not
Good and decent kids make bad decisions, use questionable judgment, get involved in things over their head. Part of the reason they do this is because they are teenagers. I believe It is our responsibility as a community to help them—to try and minimize the harm they may do to themselves and others, to provide avenues for them to redirect, and to always be hopeful for them, when they cannot be for themselves.
These are not throw away lives. Examples abound of kids who struggle with some of these things, but manage to pull it together in young adulthood.
I believe the town leadership, collectively, has an opportunity and a duty, that arises from our recent tragedy. The shooting death of Joe Ronan. I am heartsick over this. It feels to me as though the entire community is heartsick over this. We need to take this tragedy and do something that makes a positive difference and not just talk about it in hushed-tones with in our respective cliques.
My short list of “Leadership” would include:
- Board of Selectman
- School Committee
- Every school principal in Reading
- Law Enforcement
For example: are the kids going to start high school without any discussion of this within school? Will they be given any opportunities for processing or dialogue between themselves in a safe school environment? Will this real life example be incorporated into the Decisions class which every freshman is required to take? If not, why not?
How is the leadership of Reading planning to use this tragedy as a catalyst to shine a greater light on the issues of youth drug experimentation, use, abuse, etc., and what are we collectively, as a town, doing to address it, and to garner greater involvement from the general public?
Are we going to squander this teachable moment?