SAMOHI — A spike in drug arrests at Santa Monica High School this academic year is causing concern among parents and police officers and has prompted leaders of the school’s PTSA to call a meeting to address the issue.
So far this school year there have been 35 drug arrests at Samohi, up from 17 during the entire previous school year, according to a notice about the meeting sent out by Samohi Principal Hugo Pedroza and PTSA President Debbie Mulvaney. A majority of substance-related arrests this year have involved prescription drugs, school officials said.
The meeting, which was scheduled for Tuesday night, was aimed at helping parents to recognize and prevent drug use among their teenage students.
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Bob Almada, an expert on narcotics enforcement, was scheduled to address parents about measures to keep prescription pills out of students’ hands and how to recognize signs a teenager may be abusing drugs.
Sgt. Greg Smiley, who oversees the SMPD’s Youth Services Division, said the cause of the increase in drug incidents remains a mystery.
“I wish I knew or had an answer or even could speculate. It doesn’t seem to have any type of pattern at all,” he said, adding that students arrested for possession or being under the influence have been from different grade levels, races and socio-economic backgrounds.
Pedroza and Mulvaney did not respond to inquiries about increased drug arrests, but PTA Council President Shari Davis said the meeting was “a great opportunity for parents to learn about what they should know when they’re parenting teenagers.”
The spike in drug arrests at Samohi is part of a national trend, she said, adding that she hoped the meeting would be “a model for informing ourselves and knowing what, as parents, we should be doing to help prevent anything drastic from happening.”
The increase in drug arrests has at least one Samohi parent calling for more active enforcement measures.
Thomas Browne, whose 14-year-old daughter was arrested recently for being under the influence of the drug Ecstasy during school, said he believes drug sniffing dogs should be brought in to crack down.
He said it’s obvious that kids are selling and consuming drugs while at Samohi.
“She gets picked up from school [and] she gets dropped off at school. The only place she gets high is at school,” he said. “The school board’s got to do something about cleaning up the campus.”
According to Sgt. Jay Trisler, officers “do not, as a practice, do narcotic sweeps on the schools with our dogs.”
SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo did not return calls seeking comment.
School board member Oscar de la Torre, who works with at-risk teenagers at the Pico Youth & Family Center, said he was concerned about the increase in drug arrests and supports “a balanced approach that includes awareness and also consistent discipline to curtail this problem.”
He said he’s against the use of police dogs to search for drugs on campus.
“I would not support that until we look at other prevention measures first,” he said. “I want our schools to be schools, not prisons.”