Community meeting airs concerns, offers answers

• Principal calls meeting to discuss recent investigation into off-campus incident
By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Zoe Story, a member of the Peer Health Education Team, discusses options available for students who are struggling with adolescence and life issues.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Zoe Story, a member of the Peer Health Education Team, discusses options available for students who are struggling with adolescence and life issues.

A packed community meeting Thursday at Homer High School focused on healing and understanding in the wake of a disturbing series of events in an out-of-control party on Sept. 8. The 500-person capacity auditorium was nearly full.
Principal Allan Gee followed an agenda for the meeting, starting off with the High School Choir singing ‘Stand By Me,’ followed by a listing of facts showing Homer High students tend to perform well.
“Homer High School kids are good kids, and they need to be commended,” he said. A lot of false rumors circulated during the investigation into the Sept. 8 incident that hurt the teenagers.
Homer High ranked second highest in Standardized Test Scores in the state, out of 277 schools. Of their 404 students, more than 40 percent are involved in activities. Of the 30-40 students attending the party, 14 were suspended. Gee explained his jurisdiction applies only to students involved in activities, as they are violating the Tobacco, Alcohol and Controlled Substances policy.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Superintendent Steve Atwater also spoke to the crowd.
“Homer is probably the most progressive community in the school district, which is sometimes frustrating because I am often pushed to do more, as opposed to other communities,” Atwater said. Since the District tracks incidents that require school suspensions, he pored through the numbers after learning of the Sept. 8 events.
Homer has the lowest number of offenses in the school district, which leads him to conclude that teens in Homer are, by-and-large, behaving well. He has been in touch with Gee throughout the process, and noted that despite stress, the principal has handled it well.
“I ask you to applaud him for his efforts,” Atwater said.
The crowd did, standing and applauding for more than a minute.
“I was going to say more nice things about him,” Atwater continued when the applause died down. “But you all just did that better than anything I could say.”
Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Stone said more charges may be filed as the party investigation continues. Two arrests were made in the case. (see page 1).
“The students (involved in the party,) are going to have to live a long time with consequences of their actions,” Stone said. No information was released to the public the previous month because “we have to be careful to complete our investigation,” he said.
Parents and other community members had accused the school and troopers of ignoring the seriousness of the Sept. 8 party.
Homer High School has an important peer mentoring program available to help students during times of struggle. The Peer Health Education Team includes members who have learned a well-tested curriculum in order to teach healthy relationships skills, healthy activities and how the adolescent brain works. The team took to the stage to tell the audience as teens themselves, that they are available to work with peers.
Parents and other community members were also allowed to address questions. Parent Melanie DuFour asked the state troopers how young people are gaining access to alcohol.
“From your own homes. From their parents liquor cabinets,” he said. It is illegal for adults to provide alcohol to kids. “There’s a mentality that it’s OK to keep your kids at home in a safe environment and let them drink under adult supervision. That is a wrong mentality and it is illegal.”
Homer’s moniker as “A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem” illustrates the “bragging” and wrong thinking about alcohol use in Homer. It’s a problem the town can share and work to change, he said.
Another parent suggested teaching young people to notice those most vulnerable around them if they are ever in a social situation.
“Teach them to get yourselves out of there immediately. Assess who is the most vulnerable, who needs to be taken out of the situation?”

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Posted by on Oct 10th, 2012 and filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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