A vital story to tell: We make no apologies for drug issue coverage. Indeed, it may be the most important thing we publish all year.
By Ken Esten Cooke—
We looked back at a year’s worth of coverage in the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post at all the stories and publicity run about the Fredericksburg Independent School District.
‘Billies go for fourth straight win Friday’ • ‘Honor roll students listed’ • ‘One-Act Play wins state’ • ‘FHS grads number 227’
And the list goes on and on.
Did one story ruin all that other coverage?
For a few, it may have. Some connected with the school thought our interview with an anonymous student who confessed his drug use thought it reflected poorly on the entire district. They were upset that the youth had carte blanche to say what he wanted, such as his guess that 50 percent of students used drugs. (We balanced that with an estimate from Officer Chris Ayala, who stated that 20 percent had tried drugs and 10 percent were regular users. Perhaps 50 percent of the anonymous youth’s friends use drugs.)
But we heard from others who thanked us for the story. Readers, and even we jaded journalists, were shocked to learn from this young man how easy it is to get “hooked up” with drugs. The information was what was important in this story, not the identity of the student.
We felt relief that this student felt the need to change his ways, though it took a tragedy to shake him out of it. We also were mad and frustrated by the fact that drug busts continue — both on campus and off — and that some were not affected by the death of a fellow student.
We feel this is information the public should have, especially as the FISD board of trustees heads into its annual retreat to consider its drug policy, among other things.
This was just one angle of the tragic story of a drug overdose by a popular young man, and the continuing police investigation. Everyone in this town has a vested interest in how this plays out.
The story was not run as an indictment of the district, the trustees, the staff or students. We have children in the district, too.
Rather it was run to shed light on one of the troubling issues faced by our town.
Drug use is something that happens in every town in America and it sometimes has tragic consequences. Neither small towns nor private schools are immune from what can be considered big-city problems.
Still, we want our town, our parents and, yes, our school district to have all the information necessary to make better decisions where the well-being of our students is concerned.
As we have stated many times, we feel this district is exceptional in many ways. Trustees run it with an eye to the future, and a concern for the pocket books of taxpayers. Our teachers do an excellent job as evidenced by better-than-average test scores.
The superintendent stated in Monday’s board meeting that “slings and arrows” come with the job. We know exactly what he means.
Yet, we don’t feel our duty is to act as a public relations firm for any of our governmental entities. That we support salaries and these institutions with our tax dollars, not to mention our First Amendment freedoms, gives us the right to speak our mind. It also is unrealistic to think that stories should reflect only that which is “sugar, spice and everything nice.” (No pun intended, as “spice” is now a name for synthetic marijuana.)
Where we can improve policies, let’s do so. Where we parents can improve student oversight, let’s do so.
In the mean time, we plan to keep shedding light on this story.