BARSTOW - Despite three separate incidents of students allegedly being drunk in class at Barstow High School within a week, officials say that the drinking problem is under control at the school.

City spokesman John Rader said the recent arrests were due to proactive enforcement efforts rather than an increase in the number of students drinking. He said that police have cited 15 to 20 students for being under the influence of drugs and alcohol at BHS since classes began in September.

According to state records, the school issued 37 suspensions and expelled four students last year for possession of alcohol or controlled substances.

Principal Claire Ellis said that some students drink before classes but doubts that drinking occurs on school grounds. She said increased efforts by hall monitors, teachers and school resource officer Dante Caliboso have detected most intoxicated students before they enter the classroom. The school did not have a Barstow police officer at the school full-time last year, she said.

"We can tell that having the professional law enforcement official here really makes the difference. I just think that we're able to deal with the problem right away this way," she said.

Students who are suspected of being under the influence are interviewed by officer Caliboso and given a breathalyzer test. Those found to be drinking are given a five-day suspension, a criminal citation and referred to a drug and alcohol counseling program. Students who are caught the second time can face expulsion.

"We suspend them; we cite them; we send them to counseling. After all that, if you choose to drink again, we haven't be able to help you," Ellis said.

She said that intoxicated students disrupt classes and often make inappropriate choices about their sexual behavior. Ellis said that boys and girls of all races and income levels drink.
She said she doesn't understand why kids come to class drunk.

"They don't learn. Why come? Why would you do that?" she said.

Ellis said that while she thinks most kids drink or use drugs to rebel against authority, others do so because they are depressed. She said that in addition to increased enforcement, the community can counter the problem by offering alternative activities to bored teenagers.

"We've had kids say for a number of years that there's nothing to do in Barstow. The more we can have students do fun activities, the less they'll engage in inappropriate behaviors," she said.

Dave Wishnewsky, drug and alcohol counselor for the Barstow schools, said that he counsels 20 to 40 students each semester for drug and alcohol problems. He said that he doesn't think that alcohol use in the Barstow schools is high compared to other districts.

"I wouldn't call it a major plague. We have a problem among some students who don't consider other alternatives to using drugs and alcohol," he said.

Mark Jones, a junior at the school, said he agrees with the idea that students drink or use drugs out of boredom. He said that he doesn't see an increase in drinking at the school.

"Last year was a lot worse," he said.

He said that students who choose to drink aren't bothered by the threat of suspension.
"That's a five-day vacation for them," he said.

BHS senior Josh Walker said that for him the punishments for drinking worked. As a sophomore he came to class after drinking with "members of the wrong crowd" and was suspended for five days. He hasn't drunk since.

"I was pretty much on house arrest for a while," he said.

He said that he thinks students in the lower grades are more susceptible to drinking.
"The higher up you go in school, the more you realize you have to buckle down," he said.

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