Substance abuse assemblies are not a rare occurrence in the life of a high school student. Abstinence only policies are encouraged and taught, and often times guest speakers who can touch on their personal experiences are brought in. Seaholm’s drug and alcohol abuse assembly in January included these speakers.
The first speaker was Nathaniel, a teen from the Birmingham area, who gave an inside perspective to his history of drug abuse. To somewhat protect his identity we were only given his first name. He told the seniors, who had the first assembly, a relatively clean story – nothing that wasn’t school appropriate for seventeen and eighteen year olds.
Although Nathaniel seemed nervous, many seniors believe he had a nice presentation.
“I think everyone thought he did a great job,” senior Adam Lutz said. “No complaints from any seniors from that part of the assembly”.
However, after Nathaniel gave his speech, the assembly began to head into a different direction. The Seaholm administration believed it would be beneficial for the students if the assembly ended with what was intended to be a short speech by Kate Delong Birmingham Public School’s district liaison from the Birmingham Police Department.
Delong’s speech first began as the typical encouragements not to take substances, and not to operate a vehicle while under the influence. The address was seemingly well received until Delong delved into the area of Minor In Possessions (MIPs).
Delong said that an MIP for a high school student is not a death sentence.
Delong then said that if a high school student receives an MIP, it will not affect their chances of admission into colleges and universities.
Some students took offense to this claim, and a handful of seniors spoke up to voice their disagreement. They began asking Delong questions, which were not necessarily aimed at gaining knowledge, but instead at showing their own viewpoint.
Arguments started to begin between the students and Delong. Seaholm principal Rachel Guinn stepped in to stop the assembly, and said that herself and Delong would be available for questions afterwards.
The line of seniors to ask questions was nearly out the door. Delong answered the first few questions and then left and would not return for the rest of the assemblies that were planned.
The rest of the grades were supposed to see the same assembly as the seniors, but they did not. Instead, Delong didn’t give a speech or answer student questions.
Nathaniel also went into more graphic detail and mentioned violence within his own family for the following junior class assembly. This speech wasn’t seen as school appropriate, and the assembly was cancelled for the underclassmen.
Seaholm students filled the halls with talk of the assembly changes and differences. Some students even labeled it as a Failed Assembly.
Many students in the senior grade were frustrated with the choice of representative from the Birmingham Police Department.
“She [Delong] should’ve been more prepared,” senior Michael Lutz said. “There’s no reason that someone that important to the school should have been so unprepared for an assembly of that size.”
Other students were upset with the administrative decision to shut down an entire assembly. There is now talk of what will happen for next year. We can only imagine that there will be many more limits to what is shown in the assembly and who will speak. The liaison will have to be more prepared because they can’t stop kids from asking questions.
I made several attempts to get a comment from people in the Birmingham Administration and even tried to reach out to the liaison herself. After stating my intent of trying to get an interview about the Drug Assembly at Seaholm, I failed to get a single response. The assembly is a hot topic the administration may not want to talk about to a student attending the school.
All in all the assembly definitely did not go as planned. You can plan on next years drug assembly being different.
By Scott Bentley