Schools across Knox County affected by drugs

Schools across Knox County affected by drugs

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"We never give up on kids. We just keep on working until we find the right strategy, the right intervention. We just don't give up," Melissa Massie with Knox County Schools said. "We never give up on kids. We just keep on working until we find the right strategy, the right intervention. We just don't give up," Melissa Massie with Knox County Schools said.
"They still do it whenever they get done with the classes," said Austin-East freshman Quen Thomas. "What kind of drugs? Marijuana. Weed." "They still do it whenever they get done with the classes," said Austin-East freshman Quen Thomas. "What kind of drugs? Marijuana. Weed."

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The war on drugs continues on Knoxville streets and in Knox County classrooms. The schools that have the worst drug problems may surprise you.

Over the last five years, Bearden High School had the most students expelled for drugs: 79. The second highest number of expulsions was at Hardin Valley Academy with 74.

"It does go to show that, again, dispelling that myth that it's a certain group or area of town or school that's having these problems. It's all schools," said Heather Sutton, with the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

School district officials point out, however, the numbers are affected by the size of the schools.

Bearden and Hardin Valley have the most expulsions, but they are also the two largest high schools in the county.

Based on enrollment, the Paul L. Kelley School in the mall, Austin-East and South-Doyle high schools had the highest percentage of drug problems this year.

"I would not look at any one school and say there's any bigger problem than the others, but I would look at all of our schools and say, 'What are the specific strategies, interventions, education that we're providing?" said Melissa Massie, executive director of student support services for Knox County Schools. "We do a lot of drug education through our wellness courses."

Is drug education working?  

"I don't think so, because they still do it whenever they get done with the classes," said Austin-East freshman Quen Thomas. "What kind of drugs? Marijuana, weed."

South-Doyle senior Shane Tornow isn't surprised to hear the news about his school.

"All the people I know who do it or sell it, either their parents sell it to them or give it to them or their parents just don't care," Tornow said.

South-Doyle Middle School topped the list for drug expulsions this year. Over the last five years, 14 Knox County middle schools have had a total of 181 drug expulsions.

There have been seven expulsions at four elementary schools -- Adrian Burnett, Norwood, Ritta and West Hills -- in the last five years.

"The thing that we always tell parents is have conversations with your kids early and often is the key," said Sutton.

She says Knox County is about on par with the national average. 

"We hope to lower those numbers, of course, but they're not entirely surprising," Sutton said.

"We never give up on kids. We just keep on working until we find the right strategy, the right intervention. We just don't give up," Massie said.

The school district says the biggest challenges they're facing right now are prescription pills and synthetic drugs.

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