Southington Town Council discusses student drug use

Southington Town Council discusses student drug use


SOUTHINGTON – The Town Council continued to discuss anti-drug efforts at a meeting Monday following one councilor’s call for the town to use drug-sniffing dogs and random locker searches at Southington High School.

Drug prevention experts and police officials spoke about existing programs and said their efforts are complicated by the scope of the problem and undermined by the legalization of marijuana.

Earlier this month, Town Councilor Victoria Triano called for more frequent use of drug-sniffing dogs and random locker searches at the high school, saying there have been too many incidents over the past year of students found with drugs or using alcohol outside of school.

Deputy Police Chief William Palmieri said the department’s efforts need support from parents as well as legislators who have considered legalizing marijuana in recent General Assembly sessions.

“We can’t legalize marijuana. I don’t care how much tax money we get, it’s wrong,” he said.

Police are trying to focus on choke points for drugs destined for students. Palmieri said the stakes were high considering the deadly effects of drugs such as heroin.

Kelly Leppard, a prevention specialist with STEPS, and Christina Simms, Youth Services Director, also outlined their efforts to the council. Simms was encouraged that town leadership was “owning the problem” of addiction in town and added that parents need resources to protect their children.

“Parents are the first line of defense,” she said.

Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio said he was pleased the issue was being addressed rather than “swept under the rug.”

“Talking about it as a community puts us levels above many other communities in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “Tonight is great. Let’s just do it more often.”

Triano said she met with School Superintendent Tim Connellan and has other meetings planned with town officials to see what else can be done. She said she was surprised when Connellan told her not to restrict her efforts to the high school. Students at middle and grammar school levels also needed the education to prevent addiction.

“You guys have been on the front line – educate, educate, educate,” she said to Simms and Leppard.

Tom Lombardi, a councilor, thanked them for their efforts and acknowledged the difficulty of their task.

“If I were in your shoes, I could see myself getting discouraged,” he said. “Continue the good work.” 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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