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    Dissertation Proposal

    To the Extent Feasible: Principals Perspectives

    On Students with Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Issues

    Daniel J. Bissonnette

    Washington State University

    College of Education

    Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology

    June 2012

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    CHAPTER ONE

    OVERVIEW

    The purpose of this study is to explore perspectives of principals in their work with

    students who are impacted by alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues. These issues are a societal

    and systemic problem much like poverty; they are non-academic barriers to student success

    which impact student achievement. It is important to understand what school leader attitudes,

    beliefs and perspectives are on these issues. This study will explore how principals understand

    and view their work with students who are affected by alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues.

    The background and explanation of the problem of substance abuse is explored in this chapter.

    The Research Problem

    Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in our communities is ubiquitous and it has a

    deleterious impact on public education. Adolescents who use drugs are characterized by many

    of the same attributes as are school dropouts, have poorer relationships with their parents, poorer

    grades, worse attitudes about academics, lower self-esteem, are more absent from school, more

    rebellious, more depressed, and take on more risky behaviors (Mensch & Kandell, 1988, p. 97).

    Students are impacted by alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, whether by their own use, that of

    friends and classmates, or by issues of use within their families and neighborhoods. Our teens

    are awash in a sea of addictive substances, while adults send mixed messages at best, wink and

    look the other way, or blatantly condone or promote their use (National Center on Addictions

    and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [CASA], 2011, p. 3). School climate is negatively

    affected. Studies have shown that while the greatest percentage of twelve- to seventeen-year-

    olds surveyed each year by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia

    University consistently listed drugs as their number one concern(Califano, 2007, p. 42), only a

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    quarter of high school principals think drugs are used, kept, or sold on their school grounds

    (Califano, 2007, p. 43). Existing literature provides little insight into how principals effectively

    deal with these problems while providing opportunities for all students to succeed. What is not

    known are the values, beliefs, and perspectives of principals who are aware of the prevalence and

    impact of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on students and schools; who are aware of

    themselves, the power of their own positionality, and its potential to affect these issues; and who

    may act in such a way as to increase success and reduce marginalization of these students.

    Extent of the Problem

    Taxes from the sale of beer, wine, hard liquor, and tobacco, sustain government coffers.

    Discussions about legalizing marijuana are common as its use, for medical purposes and

    otherwise. Calm, informed, and unbiased conversations about alcohol and drug use in society

    give way to disruption when personal values, behaviors, and experience wrapped with emotions

    enter the discussion. Debate about the pros and cons of alcohol and drug use abounds with

    questions of our Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness pitted against

    social and economic costs and conservative and liberal politics. The police, government,

    media, politicians, commercial retailers and medical establishment frequently project different

    and opposing perspectives on the health risks and images of pleasure associated with drug

    taking (Blackman, 1996, p. 139). In a recent newspaper article on the decriminalization of the

    use and possession of marijuana in a New England state and the conflict it causes with students,

    the superintendent said the students feel if they can have marijuana on the street, then they

    should be able to have it in the schools. This society sends mixed messagesand its not good

    (Daniel, 2012, para. 5). Students are impacted by exposure to drugs at school, at home or in the

    community. Roughly 25 percent to 30percent of all of our kidssuffer with their own

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    chemical problems or those of their families (Anderson, 1993, p. 399). Baumrind and Moselle

    (1985) noted that the abuse of substances, licit and illicit, is so widespread in our present

    societal context that we might as well ask why some adolescents abstain, rather than why most

    do not (p. 44). The same sentiments are being pondered still today. Many students themselves

    use drugs. Others who do not either know or know of students who do. In her seminal work

    with children of alcoholic parents, Black (1981) reported that an estimated one in six American

    families is affected by alcoholism. Thirty years later, CASA (2011) reported that 45.4% or 33.9

    million children under age 18 live with a parent who participates in risky substance use (p. 67).

    Given this dramatic progression, it is important to recognize that virtually all of us have been

    somehow impacted by alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs whether through personal experience or

    by living in a society whose convoluted attitudes thwart our ability to make much progress

    (Anderson, p. 6).

    Prescription drug abuse is burgeoning. There has been a tremendous increase in the

    prevalence of nonmedical prescription drug use among adolescents in recent years. Research

    now indicates that the prevalence of nonmedical prescription drug use is greater than the

    prevalence of other illicit drug use, excluding marijuana (Ford, 2009, abstract). Schroeder and

    Ford (2012) referenced the primary concern with the high and growing prevalence of

    prescription drug misuse and the assumed advantages of using prescription drugs compared with

    other illicit substances. Cisero, Inciardi, and Munoz (2005) explained that adolescents perceive

    that the risk of criminal justice intervention is lower for prescription drug misuse than the use of

    other drugs.

    Although the use and influence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs in our communities

    is pervasive, this does not mean that everyone involved has negative consequences as a result of

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    it. Everyone does not. But risk is inherent in any drug use, even from first use--recovering

    alcoholics and addicts often say their problems started with first use--and while first use alone

    does not portend habit or addiction, it is a gamble. The diagnosis of problem use comes with

    behavioral changes and unwanted, negative consequences.

    Boesky (2011) delineated issues from disorders. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues

    are behaviors, actions, symptoms, and consequences a person may manifest for any reason due to

    personal use or due to the impact of use by a loved one or other meaningful relationship. A

    disorder is diagnosable (Boesky), a condition that affects the function of mind or body (The

    American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2009, para. 1). It is important that

    educational leaders understand there is a difference between alcohol, tobacco, and other drug

    issues and disorders (Boesky) and that both need to be taken seriously. A principal would be

    misguided to decide with certainty an incident involving a student or students with alcohol,

    tobacco or other drugs is or is not an issue of concern. Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, whether

    manifested as relatively mild early experimentation or diagnosable addiction, has consequences

    at school; relatively small alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use problems left unaddressed can

    become comparably more serious problems. All levels of drug use can affect student academic

    performance and student health. Consequences lead to policy violations, trouble with peers and

    family, behavior problems, obstacles to good attendance, and dropout. Again, issues are

    behaviors, actions, symptoms, and consequences a person may manifest for any reason due to

    personal use or due to the impact of use by a loved one or other meaningful relationship. A

    disorder is diagnosable. For the purposes of this study I will focus on student alcohol, tobacco,

    and other drug use issues without making assumptions about whether or not they are also

    disorders.

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    Leadership Responses to the Problem

    The literature provides little or no research on principal leaders with students in mind

    who are marginalized by the impact of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Leader responses vary

    within schools, from school to school, and between districts. One student may experience little

    or no consequence while another student could be ejected from school for the same infraction.

    School discipline procedures can be beneficial while intervening with students with non-

    academic

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