Heroin in schools? Yes, but extent is unknown
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JANESVILLE How widespread is heroin use among Janesville high school-aged youth?
That’s a hard question to answer.
Authorities at Craig and Parker high schools say no instances of heroin dealing or use have come to their attention.
And yet, with heroin in the community, it’s possible some high school students are affected, principals at both schools acknowledged.
A recent Craig parent newsletter dedicated half a page to the problem.
“While we have not had an incident involving heroin at Craig, it doesn’t mean our students don’t have access to this drug,” the article states.
Four girls from Craig and Parker high schools who have been involved in drugs say they know quite a few of their peers are doing heroin.
“It’s everywhere,” one 17-year-old said.
The girls spoke in the presence of a school social worker and on the condition of anonymity.
“As soon as you get in ninth grade, everybody knows where to get it, how much it costs,” the 17-year-old said. “I mean, you’re 14, you shouldn’t know.
“It’s all around Parker (High School) now,” she continued.
“Oh, big-time,” agreed another 17-year-old, who said she knows of teens who are injecting the drug and can’t stop.
Those statements might be overblown.
“John,” a 19-year-old former Parker student who used heroin, said he knew of about 25 fellow students who were doing heroin in 2008. He thinks fewer do it now, in part because they were scared off when a 2008 Parker grad died from a heroin overdose last summer.
John acknowledged there might have been others he didn’t know about in ’08, but he said he can usually spot a heroin user.
Police officers assigned to the high schools said they have seen no signs of heroin.
“I’m not going to say it’s never come into our building, but I have not had any contact with it here,” said officer Tom Lemery at Craig.
Officer Scott Wasemiller at Parker had a similar response. He said he has worked in drug units in three counties, and “I know what to look for. I know the signs, and I’ve never seen anything like that up here.”
John said the users he knew usually waited until the weekends to snort heroin.
School social worker Verlene Orr said she was shocked recently when she brought a group of about 20 students to meet with parents. She asked the kids if they knew anyone who was using heroin, and about 10 raised their hands.
“My sense is that it’s gotten quite prevalent with those recently out of high school, and it’s filtering down into high school students,” Orr said.
Craig High School counselor Shelly Osmond said she talked to a couple of students about their heroin use a few years ago.
“They just thought it was the funniest thing in the world,” Osmond said. “The sad thing is, it didn’t get them anywhere.”
Osmond said she heard of perhaps four students using heroin at that time, but there were probably more—it’s impossible to know.
Osmond also hears from former students who tell her heroin is being used among 18-20-year-olds in the community.
A Parker teacher said his sources tell him some students are using heroin. The teacher talked on the condition that he not be identified. He said he can do more good than if students knew he talked to the press.
The Parker teacher agreed with others who said heroin crosses lines that other drugs do not.
“It’s in every segment of our population at this school,” the teacher said.
The teacher said he has learned more about heroin over the past year than he ever wanted to know.
For example, he knows that popular places to inject it are between the toes, under the tongue and in the groin.
“Once that drug gets hold of you—unbelievable,” the teacher said.