City of Seattle
A birds' eye diagram of Hiawatha Playfield next to West Seattle High School, where parents say some kids are obtaining and using drugs and alcohol.

West Seattle parents gather to talk teens and drugs

Over 20 parents of West Seattle students – mostly from Madison Middle School and West Seattle High School – gathered at the WSHS Library on the night of Oct. 10 to share their fears and frustrations with drug and alcohol abuse among teens and brainstorm on possible solutions.

It was a far-reaching conversation, covering several types of drugs (from the most commonly abused pot and alcohol to use of over-the-counter and designer drugs), how they are obtained, where they are used, and how to approach kids who may be experimenting.

The gathering was put together by parents with the aid of the Admiral Neighbhorhood Association and local PTAs and included representatives from Seattle Parks, Seattle Police, Seattle Public Schools and the Admiral Safeway.

The night began with a reality check as one parent shared the story of her child overdosing on an over-the-counter cold medicine that sent the teen to the hospital for a seven-hour stay while battling involuntary muscle spasms and vision problems.

“These kids can buy this at any local store,” she said. “It’s not from a guy in a trench coat.”

It was a statement that highlighted the immense and difficult task put before parents of teens today. With so many drug options swirling about, and so many ways kids may obtain them, there is no one conversation that covers all the dangers.

Another mother spoke up, stating she had a good relationship with her child and that he was willing to share with her some of the details other kids want kept secret, such as places to score and do drugs. Her question: How do I share that information with police or the school without violating this important level of trust I have with my child?

WSHS Principal Ruth Medsker said she can talk with school administrators at anytime and they will keep the source confidential. As a reassurance, she said if one kid knows something, likely hundreds of others do as well so it will be difficult for kids to pin down a source. SPD Officer John Flores said they can call police as well, who will take the information discretely.

Issues at Hiawatha Playfield
One of the core reasons behind the formation of this meeting was parental concern about drug and alcohol use at Hiawatha Playfield, just north of WSHS and south of Safeway. It is a very popular hangout for kids from middle to high school, and there have been reports of drug dealers milling about and certain people offering to steal hard liquor from nearby grocery stores for a price.

Parents said the problems are exacerbated in the summer, when the park is not as populated with school-sanctioned afternoon activities like sports practice and after school programs at the community center.

One parent said she was at the Admiral Safeway with her teens recently when a man in his 30s, apparently unaware the kids were with their mother, approached them and asked if he could buy them alcohol.

Safeway representatives said they were aware of the problems of liquor theft and illegal purchases, and in response they have upped security. They asked parents with details on those incidents to let them (and police) know with specific time frames and suspect descriptions.

Seattle Parks reps said they will look into the possibility of cutting back flora in the park to improve sight lines for police looking for illegal activity at Hiawatha.

The parent problem with I-502
With Washington voters passing into law the legal use of recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and over, several parents said they are battling a pervasive perception among kids that the law indicates pot is not dangerous and widely used.

A father said he has to battle the opinion of other parents who say, “Well, it’s (pot use) OK with us because there are worse things they can do.”

Searching for solutions
A few solutions were offered up on the night:

1) Call 911 when you see suspicious activity at parks or grocery stores. Repeated calls tell SPD – through their data-backed patrols – that something is going on in that area and they should take a closer look.

2) Take a hard line on marijuana use – let you kids know while it is legal for adults, it isn’t for kids.

3) A school counselor in attendance said teens do not have many of the coping skills adults possess. She recommended role-playing difficult situations with your kids where they might be offered drugs or a ride with an intoxicated driver. By going through the motions beforehand, she said, they will be better prepared for the real deal.

4) Be their scapegoat: Encourage your kids to use you as a reason they cannot partake in a certain activity. “You know my mom and dad," he or she can say, "they are so strict.”

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