South Portland cancels all but two school dances due to student substance use

Substance abuse forces SPHS to limit dances

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — South Portland High School's principal and the district superintendent decided to cancel all but two school dances due to high rates of students being drunk or high at school events.

Superintendent Ken Kunin and principal Ryan Caron sent a letter to families dated September 9 with the announcement.

In the letter, Kunin and Caron wrote that 40 percent of all alcohol incidents in the district in the last three years occurred at dances. Students will only have two dances to attend: Homecoming and Senior Prom.

Kunin said Friday that he consulted other district administrators and the South Portland Police Department about whether canceling school dances would be an appropriate action.

Kunin said many students would come to a dance, leave, and then get dropped back off at the school, making their parents think that they were under school staff supervision when they were not.

Kunin said students who choose to drive under the influence pose an unacceptable risk to themselves and others, which led to the decision to cancel the other dances.

“Just about every dance we had there had been some sort of incidents around substance use and abuse that had been of concern," said Kunin. "We’re not in the dance business. We’re in the business of educating our students for their future, and if we can’t do this well and do it without risk, maybe we should pull back somewhat."

Some students are disappointed by the decision.

“I was very mad because the dances are the only extra school activities going on, so when they took that away just because a couple students were high and drunk, I was very mad about that," said Sophie Sedjro, a sophomore at SPHS. "We just all come together at those, and now that we only have two, very little, some kids could be even more separated.”

Every year, students fill out the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, which asks them to anonymously report their drug and alcohol use.

Kunin said the survey showed no sharp increases in alcohol use, and there was a slight increase in marijuana use.

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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