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RHS Principal: Students' Drinking, Drug Use 'Out of Control'

Discussion on underaged drinking and substance abuse to be held Oct. 27 at the high school; Principal Jack Lorenz strongly urging parents to attend

Ridgewood has a serious problem with teen drug and alcohol use, according to High School Principal Jack Lorenz, who is urging parents to attend a Town Hall-style discussion next week on combating substance abuse.

A collection of law enforcement officers, school administrators and doctors are holding Parent2Parent: Alcohol and Our Teens Town Hall Dinner on Oct. 27 at the RHS Campus Center.

“Underage drinking in Ridgewood is totally out of control, along with marijuana and other drugs,” Lorenz said. RHS has had several public incidents in the past year, notably a dance that led to police intervention and multiple hospital visits for excessive intoxication.

Lorenz said that alcohol poisoning happens "nearly every weekend" in Ridgewood and that he believes there's a “huge problem” with female students engaging in binge drinking.

The panel, tasked to share concerns and determine strategies to reduce drinking and drug abuse, includes RHS Assistant Principal Basil Pizzuto, RHS Crisis Intervention Counselor Lauren DePinto, Valley Hospital emergency room physician Bruce Felsentstein and a Ridgewood police officer. 

“The abuse of these substances crosses a diverse group of kids at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum," Lorenz said. The problem is so prevalent that any parent [who] does not attend puts their child at risk.”

And Lorenz says it's not just the expected "problem students" who find themselves downing beers, smoking marijuana and experimenting with harder drugs.

“The landscape is continually changing,” he says. “In the past, it was easy to identify the kids who were abusing drugs and alcohol. Today, some of our top students are the biggest abusers.”

He said teen drug and alcohol use is associated with everything from car crashes, sexual assaults, STDs and warned parents not to be "drinking buddies" for their children.

For more information, E-mail David Zrike for more info at dzrike@zrike.com.

Lawrence October 20, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I'm probably the only person on the planet who has not seen any of the Star Wars movies and so your reference is lost on me (LOL).
Harlan Consider October 20, 2011 at 04:53 PM
We can play the blame game, but I think the causes are multiple and complex. As a society, we have become very tolerant towards drug usage. Excessive alcohol consumption may have become less socially acceptible, but the availability of it makes it still the high of choice for kids. Unlike the old days, where getting alcohol posed certain difficulties, kids today just take it from the family supply. Homes in affluent communities like Ridgewood typically have a good stock of alcoholic beverages. As for drugs, the drugs of choice for many kids today are the prescription kind. Many parents today have very powerful anti-depressants and pain relievers. Now let's take a look at marijuana. It's a lot more powerful than the stuff you smoked back in your college days. Having said that, I many of you know this. On a summer's evening, I can stand on my back deck, and smell clouds of it coming from your back yards. So you think it should be legal. Okay, but remember that your justification for "breaking the law" gives strong signals to your kids. Despite being illegal, marijuana is also made acceptible by much of our media. Celebrities openly joke on TV about using it. I didn't mean to turn this into some kind of rant against marijuana use among parents. If you want to spend your evenings tuned out and forgetting what it was you were thinking about a few minutes earlier, then good for you.
Harlan Consider October 20, 2011 at 05:04 PM
The two people you refer to bear no resemblence to suburban high school kids. Winehouse and Lohan were/are both adults, and also, relatively wealthy. Their wealth and power is such that everyone in their extended family, including their parents, is reliant to some degree of them for their lifestyle.
Melvin Freedenberg October 20, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Rock, Let me borrow your rose colored glasses. If the parents are alcoholics, so will be their children. Parents who don't smoke and are not in the liquor cabinet probably do not have these problems. You think the other parents give a crap? I don't. Most of the parents bury their problems in the bottle. Perhaps, there is a way to reach their children. I do not believe that conventional methods will not work. I think we need to look outside the box. I don't have the answer nor do I think the Principal does.
Gregg October 20, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Holy crap......do any of you work anymore?? Is this the new Psychiatric Ward for Ridgewood residence on how to become parents without even trying? Maybe you need to seek additional help & funding to resolve these insidious acts. Wow I feel better now
No One October 20, 2011 at 09:43 PM
As a Ridgewood High School student I can vouch for all that Lorenz has said (I wrote a blog about this on TRB a few months ago). I wanna point out that ciggs are also abused, people smoke them just a few feet away form the school lines for crying out loud. If possible I would recommend random drug tests in RHS due to the severity of the situation. One issue I can see arising though is kid trying to do drugs in new ways, in other town around New Jersey I hear kids have "pill parties" where people will get random pills from their drug cabinets, out it in a bowl, and everyone takes a handful of them. My question is, why do the kids in Ridgewood do drugs so much? A parent once told me she believed it was because there was too much pressure on RHS students to succeed.
Tracy Frasche October 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM
I have two kids in RHS and the stories I hear keep me awake at night. The peer pressure our kids experience is tremendous when it comes to drugs and alcohol. I do my best as a parent who works in the medical field to share every horror story I can about drug and alcohol abuse. However, when their friends are partaking and telling them how "safe" it is, it's very difficult to convince them of the dangers.
RdgwdGRock October 21, 2011 at 03:22 AM
tell your kids to get new friends. they need better friends, not fiends.
Lee R. October 21, 2011 at 03:22 AM
To "RidgewoodGuy11".....please take a step back and try not to make generalizations about children and adolescents. Because a child is from family where the parents are divorced, that does not mean that they are more prone to drug or alcohol abuse. There are many kids of divorce in this town, or anywhere for that matter, that are stellar students, admirable citizens, and certainly not into drugs/alcohol.
RdgwdGRock October 21, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Lee R. Please re-read my statement in its entirety. To summarize "...all too often, I've read and/or heard about situations where teen violence, drug use or drinking occurs, and a parent's defense is that "I did my best". This is not a generalization, but specific only to those situations where the kids get in trouble and a parent's reaction. Perhaps a new topic can be "Ridgewood Parents reading and writing skills have declined"
Horatio Alger October 21, 2011 at 07:38 AM
I graduated in the class of 2011, scored over a 2200 on the SAT, was a varsity athlete in multiple sports, and was a member of the band. I also drank and smoked weed regularly. Now attending college, I can really say that many of the commenters are overreacting in regards to the allegations in this article. To everyone thinking they see drug deals happening in town all the time, they are so incredibly wrong. Kids are smarter than that, it is always done secretly. You don't need to worry about you or your kids encountering weed unless they really want to do it. It isn't as pervasive in the high school as everyone seems to think it is. Most kids abstain. Similarly, the alcohol problem is somewhat misunderstood. Most kids engage in somewhat responsible usage; they also self police, getting themselves and others home safely when they overindulge. There are very few if any instances of drunk driving amongst the kids in high school, which is a credit to the moral character of most kids in this town. However, as Mr. Lorenz stated, the main problem is binge drinking among young girls. Having attended many high school dances, the kids most often puking are stupid freshman and sophomore girls who can't stomach the liquor that they drank ten minutes before out of a water bottle. The kids in this town are alright even if they shotgun beers and hit the bong. Most of them are successful and will be well adjusted, happy adults. Give the kids of this town more credit.
Harlan Consider October 21, 2011 at 09:45 AM
You seem to have no problem openly admitting that you break the law.
RdgwdGRock October 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM
while I may not agree with your assessment, your perspective is refreshing.
Horatio Alger October 21, 2011 at 03:19 PM
As a recent graduate, people don't do "drugs" that much young Peter. We smoke weed, which you probably have not tried, and while it is illegal, it is far from dangerous, addicting or deleterious to your health. Pill parties do not happen either, you probably watched an episode of Dr. Phil or Oprah and heard about them. From my experience, that generally occurs in towns not as affluent as Ridgewood (cough, Paramus). They don't take random pills either, kids look for vicodins, percosets and oxycotins so parents, throw those out if you don't need them anymore.Random drug testing is an incredibly naive idea as well. Do you think in a town with so many lawyers and people who love to raise hell at town council meetings over proposed stop signs (i.e. insignificant issues) that such an egregious violation of privacy could ever happen. You seem like a good kid Peter but you are quite inexperienced. Your parents generation probably drank more alcohol and smoked the same amount of weed that ours does. We don't do it because we have pressure put on us. We do it because weed is incredibly fun, relaxing and not dangerous. When I smoke, I don't vomit or vandalize things like some kids do with alcohol. Me and my friends will generally play basketball or just hang after smoking. However, alcohol is great; it is a social lubricant. Its more fun to dance and hang with members of the fairer sex when drunk. And Peter,parting words has anyone ever pressured you to smoke or drink?
Tracy Frasche October 21, 2011 at 10:35 PM
@Ridgewood Guy, when I say "friends" I use the term loosely. When one's children are invited to a gathering at someone's house you don't always know all the kids that will be there. Personally, I'm of the opinion that we should have the option of having our kids submit to drug testing. As parents, we have to approve whether our kids are photographed or whether they want to participate in dissections in their Biology labs, why not for drug testing?
JV October 22, 2011 at 12:25 AM
The ignorance on display in some of these comments is certainly interesting. Drug addicts are generally people who are chemically different than the bulk of the population. They do not choose to be driven by the disease that will kill them if untreated, in much the same way that diabetes will. They have a illness that is incurable. It can be managed, but it does not disappear. That is very different than people who choose to engage in the ingestion of excessive amounts of drugs - alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroine, prescription pills, etc. - because of the peer pressure or general availability of substances that are seen as a way to forget problems, relieve stress, or make someone socially connected. The vast bulk of students "breaking the law" will move beyond this activity and become productive, balanced members of society. Some of them will become addicts. That's not going to change. What needs to change is the attitude of the uninformed who seek to blame parents for not doing their jobs. Perhaps some do not do as many might hope, but that's not the real cause of the problem. It has more to do with affluence, availability, and accessibility. Kids in Ridgewood are rich, so they can afford to engage in such acivities more discreetly. I won't presume to offer a solution, since there are probably many that might work. But none will be effective as long as people refuse to believe there is an issue, or engage in placing blame instead of seeking productive answers.
RdgwdGRock October 22, 2011 at 04:13 PM
then a parent should not let their children go to events if the facts are not known. What is the event? Will there be parental supervision? Of course the kids will say "yes". Call the parent at the home of the gathering. Know as much as you can before letting a child/teen go the gathering. If in doubt, then be a strong parent a say "no". Yes, kids should be drug tested.
a.f. October 23, 2011 at 12:32 AM
This a problem that might begin at Ridgewood High School but certainly does not end there. It continues into college and then post college. As a thirty-something year old , I feel that I have been through the circuit myself. I feel that it is a combination of peer pressure and wanting to be in the 'cool' crowd that draws most young people to alcohol and other substances. I agree with some of the posters that this is a societal issue especially among families who have some money. Because it is impossible to change the culture that we live it, it is important for each family to take responsibility for their children. What that mean is we teach them from an early age that certain things are done in moderation , i.e such as alcohol when they are of an age to understand responsibility. If we wait to teach them values when they are teenagers, we are too late. Also, we can teach through helping the community such as volunteering at drug rehab centers. Maybe the teenagers need a reality check. Over all, I believe that parents are not spending enough time with their children. They need to be asking them questions, meeting the families of their friends, signing them up for a lot of activities so they don't have too much time on their hands. Please don't give up on these children. Just two weeks ago, in my neighborhood in the west park of town, there was a 14 year old boy who had a party with alcohol. His parents went out of town and left him home alone. Go figure!!!
Tracy Frasche October 23, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Wonderful insight, a.f. Our first question when it comes to parties is, "are the parents going to be home". Unfortunately, the last private party my teenager attended ended up with people dancing in their undies....which disturbingly, ended up on Facebook! When I asked where the child's parents were, the response was equally disturbing..."they were upstairs". I know the child and the parents, they are responsible people. Giving kids their space during house parties doesn't always work out as well as one would imagine.
June October 23, 2011 at 09:54 PM
alot of parents want to be "friends" with their teens and therefore won't discipline them. Get over it. You're their parent, not their peer.
John Hahn October 24, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Tracy, I am with RWDGuy11. Be the good parent to your children. Tell them to get new friends. We only have one left at home in HS. But we talk often. He has not 'experimented' yet. I hope he will not. Parenting is not easy but while doing it it is the most important job I have. I honestly believe there is this lack of shame in our society. I know of a case where the HS sports star has been caught 2x by police with drugs. Yet I hear he is still on the field, playing. Parenting is like life, it is about choices. Not always easy, not always popular. But At the end of the day we want our son to get to 21 & beyond with a fully formed brain & options. What he does when he is an adult, that is more up to him. All I can do is advise. BTW interesting exchange.
RdgwdGRock October 24, 2011 at 07:02 PM
June - correct statement. I also detest the line from a teen "my mom and I are not really like mother and daughter, more like sisters". Evden if true, would a good sister allow the other to abuse alchohol and drugs?
John Hahn October 24, 2011 at 07:22 PM
I too hate this idea that you want to be friends not parents. I am friends with my dad, because when I was a teen he taught me how to work, made sure I did not drink (or smoke.) I tell our son, when we get talking (which is often) that we can be friends later. Now my role is father, mentor & cheerleader. I also play referee when I need to.
Tracy Frasche October 25, 2011 at 10:46 PM
A parent can't be "best friends" with their children. However, one can have a relationship with their children that is conducive of open communication. We have been blessed to have children that will share many things (for better or worse) with us. That being said, we worry less about we've heard about private parties in comparison to what we've heard about the chaparoned events that have taken place at RHS and Van Neste park.
Andy Schmidt October 27, 2011 at 08:30 PM
As always - follow the money. If kids are supplied the funds to drive fancy cars, buy fancy clothes and indulge in driking and drugging - then what do you expect? If the adult parents are not able to (NOT!) share their (financial) resources responsibly, why would their kids be capable of showing restraint?
Jeanette L October 27, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Have to disagree with Horatio. Pot is dangerous, because it can lead to other drugs, it robs you, if you smoke enough, of ambition and gives you lung cancer which is much worse than from smoking cigarettes! I know this for a fact. One of my husband's late friends died of lung cancer from smoking pot years after he stopped smoking cigarettes and he was very smart, but had zero ambition and never lived the best life he could. As far as drinking, I've heard of too many parties where the police have been called, read the Ridgewood blotter and kids have been picked up numerous times for drinking. Pot is a drug, is a drug, is a drug. And the fact that you smoke regularly makes you an addict. I know because my son is a recovering herion addict, and started with alcohol, went to pot, then took heroin because it doesn't show up in urine tests after 3 days. Pot lasts a month, including in your hair. I would like to see you in twenty years and see how well you actually will be doing, because I don't think you can continue to do this without repercussions. Also, I locked up my liquor cabinet because of my now 20 year old daughter whose friends would bring alcohol to the house, sneaking it outside, because I wouldn't provide it. And I know of parents, who serve other people's children alcohol in their house. So now matter how vigilant a parent you are, it won't matter if other parents don't follow the same rules.
James Kleimann October 27, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Show of hands – how many of you will be in attendance Thursday night (tonight)?
CJ October 27, 2011 at 08:37 PM
I am a recent graduate of RHS as well. Teens are going to do what they want and find a way to do it no matter what parents say or do, from my experiences. They have to learn sooner or later what alcohol does - protecting them in a bubble doesn't last forever. Once they get to college they can do whatever they want and its better if they know how alcohol effects them beforehand, otherwise they WILL end up in the hospital; I have witnessed that first hand. Kids know that it's illegal to drink underage and smoke weed and they know who is doing it. Having a meeting about the abundance of alcohol in school will do absolutely noting, except get kids out of class. Most of the time high school kids are more scared of getting caught by their parents than by the police and are more likely to do stupid things to avoid getting caught by their parents. And no matter how "pressured" kids are due to their friends, it is highly unlikely that they will just drop them...no point in telling them to find new friends it's not as easy as it sounds, ridgewood is really cliquey
Jeanette L October 27, 2011 at 10:46 PM
It's true that most kids won't become addicts, but it's not just drinking at parties, it's when it becomes a necessity to get through the day, through stresses that it can become a problem. And if you are chronically depressed, it will definitely lead to addiction if you abuse alcohol, it's called self-medication. Also the problem is most addicts used drugs before 21 years of age. After that the likelihood of addiction is less a problem, that's why we have to tackle it now. Because teenagers with a predisposition to addiction aren't that obvious, some of the behaviors are the same as a normal teenager and until you start, you may not know you have the potential for addiction. And I agree about not being your child's friend. Too many parents have that misconception and don't discipline their children because they are afraid of losing their affection. The best parents know that won't happen and that you need to be a parent first. You can wait to be friends when you are both adults.
Chris Rekis June 17, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Lorenz is very big on broad statements. I, on the other hand, was trained to make decisions for intervention based on facts, not hyperbole. So, Mr Lorenz, I challenge you to provide facts, not anecdotes. On a personal note, I have had the opportunity to meet with Mr Lorenz at RHS and found that he speaks more for dramatic effect than from insight. As a result, I have learned to measure Lorenz's generalizations with caution. I would advise others to do the same. I believe the last Backwood's event at Van Neste speaks to the good judgement of our youth learned from both family and community. We must be doing something right. Continue to trust your judgement, evaluate everyday what's in ours son's and daughter's best interests. And, at all costs, avoid Lorenz histrionics--our kidz deserve better. "any parent does not attend puts their child at risk" -fear monger

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