Now, don't get me wrong here, as the acceptible number of students overdosing in FCPS parking lots is - and always should [shall?] be zero (0).
But more than a handful of posts from my favorite internet pinata and FCPS Board of Education Candidate Jonah Seth Eisenberg seem to be suggesting with greater fervor that the parking lots and open air sectors of FCPS school campuses are electric with drug dealing and drug use. Basically, FCPS campuses are "Hamsterdam."
Before we look at some numbers and pick this argument apart like Bubbles rifling through a dumpster, let's at least acknowledge that there are events we can prove with evidence and data...and there are assumed events with no evidence to prove they ever occurred. You know the whole "If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it" adage, yeah??
When folks make statements suggesting that rampant drug use is happening in our schools...but then offer NO numbers, percents, or aggregated instances of that claim, my hackles raise up like woah.
Also - before we start providing numbers so that folks like Seth Eisenberg will actually 1) learn something and 2) maybe start sharing accurate information with voters, let's first have a look at his grasp of an FCPS Boardmember's role in this back-and-forth with Board President Brad W. Young:
Bless his heart, y'all...
Kudos to him for using the word "childern" in his final post. Makes me feel like I am back down South for a minute.
Suffice to say Mr. Eisenberg may not have the best grip on the role of a Board Member for FCPS...so it is no real stretch that his grasp of the issues facing our schools is also fairly loose. But such rhetoric strikes at the core of this post. Let's dig in, shall we?
"Or The Drug Dealers in Your Schools Selling Openly in YOUR Schools"
Statements like the above are why I created this blog. As I have noted in each post to date, the fear-tactics being used by certain wings of political parties is exhausting. If you interpret the above statement like I do, you would think that you cannot walk into an FCPS school without some seedy individual looking at you, asking if you're "holdin" or better yet, if you "wanna go to the moon!" Or, you know, basically Charlie Sheen's character from Ferris Bueller's Day Off waiting outside every school to sell drugs to your kid.
But this isn't happening...at least not on a wide scale. And...wait for it...we have DATA to back up this claim.
The Maryland State Department of Education collects data on school discipline - including those incidents that lead to in- or out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. [Stranger's Note: BULLY on the MSDE for only having these data in PDF format! Converting them in to something more usable was a bear!]. So we analyzed these data for the 2016-17 academic year to see, to what extent, Charlie Sheen's character from Ferris Bueller's Day Off is hanging out at your kids' school and selling him or her sacks of dope.
Real quick - why are we looking only at in- and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions? Because if you get busted at school for using or selling drugs, it's doubtful that Principal McGillicutty is simply gonna slap you with detention. You're gonna suffer a more stringent disciplinary action for this type of thing.
That said, this particular discipline data set has eight (8) categories of offenses. And each of those eight offense categories has no fewer than three (3) sub-categories. Indeed, for our offense category of interest (Dangerous Substances), there are six sub-offense categories (the #'s included in this list are just the offense codes):
- 201 Alcohol
- 202 Inhalants
- 203 Drugs/Controlled Substances
- 204 Tobacco
- 891 Sells or Solicits Sale of Controlled Substance
- 892 Possesses or Uses Illegal Drugs
Table 1 below includes district enrollments, total number of offenses (district-wide), and total Dangerous Substances offenses for each district across Maryland. Unfortunately, these data do not separate out the number of offenses by sub-category, but even at the aggregate level, we can still call out Citizen Seth's statement as utter bullshit.
Table 1. District-Level "Dangerous Substances" Suspensions and Expulsions as a Percent of Total Suspensions in Each District, 2016-2017
In the 2016-17 academic year, there were a total...a TOTAL of 120 suspensions or expulsions for Dangerous Substances out of ALL 2,576 logged suspensions (school districts are ranked by most total suspensions to fewest). Less than 5 percent of all logged suspensions in Frederick County Public Schools last year were from Dangerous Substances. And recall, one of the sub-categories under Dangerous Substances is "Tobacco." Unfortunately we don't know for sure without the data for sub-category offenses (which I may try to procure eventually), but how many of these 120 in- or out-of-school suspensions and expulsions were likely an infraction for students having cigarettes? I can't say, but it's a worthy rhetorical question, methinks.
Even if every one of these infractions was handed down for the the type of carnage Citizen Eisenberg dreams up in his fear-mongering, this is still a pretty low percentage of all suspensions. In fact, though Frederick County Public Schools has the 9th highest number of total suspensions in Maryland, when you look at Dangerous Substance offenses as a percent of total offenses (4.7%), we rank 13th in the state; put another way, we fall right in the middle and are only slightly higher than the statewide average (4.4%).
Now, in the spirit of conservatism (something that makes us want to take a long, hot bath here at the Stranger's Almanac), we're going to play a game and use some conservative estimates to further our point. First, know that each of the 120 offenses noted above are not necessarily single offenses by 120 individual students. I am sure in a few cases, "Crazy Phil" got bored and decided to go light up a cig in the bathroom AGAIN! And then Principal McGillicutty caught him...AGAIN! And he got In School Suspension...AGAIN! So to think that these data are telling us 120 students were busted for Dangerous Substance offenses is not quite accurate (and again, this is not possible without student-level data which I don't have, nor *should* any of us not working for the district or state have).
But let's be conservative and suggest that the 120 offenses are individual offenses from 120 unique students. Here we can look at the total Dangerous Substance offenses as a percent of the district's total enrollment.
Table 2. District-Level "Dangerous Substances" Suspensions and Expulsions as a Percent of Total Enrollments in Each District, 2016-2017
When we look at the number of Dangerous Substance offenses (120) in FCPS as a percent of the TOTAL ENROLLMENT (41,317), we drop even further in the rankings to nineteenth (where we are tied alongside Saint Mary's and Dorchester Counties - drug dens, both of them!). Again, if we were to suggest that each of the 120 Dangerous Substances offenses were from unique students, less than one-third of one percent of the FCPS student body were suspended in 2016-17 for a Dangerous Substance offenses.
As I have noted, something that really sticks in my craw is when would-be, or actual politicians latch on to farcical statements that they then blast out via social media, or at candidate meet & greets, or at forums, or in press releases, without having the numbers to back up the statement. What is worse is that the average voter or citizen probably doesn't have the actual information floating around in their head to say "no, Seth, actually only 4.7% of the total suspensions in FCPS were under the "Dangerous Substances" category, and it is entirely possible that not ALL of those offenses were from the type of drug use/dealing you are suggesting here." Nor do they have the time to go grab the raw data and develop a cogent rebuttal.
But hey, my abject nerdiness is your gain! Now you *do* have information for such a rebuttal. And I hope like hell SOMEONE uses it, because I cannot stress enough how important it is for those who will lead us - specifically those whose trust we place to make the best decisions for our children [well, your children, but I want your children to do well because they're gonna have to care for me when I am put out to pasture here in a few years] - to make sound, data-driven decisions.
Fear-mongering using farcical statements that most folk cannot challenge is for the birds. Here at the Stranger's Almanac, we're trying to provide a more substantial source of seeds [or, you know, knowledge] than horse droppings for the smart birds that don't have the patience or stomach to sort through shit.
You can start by saying "Seth Eisenberg's characterization of drug use/dealing in FCPS schools is WAY off-base! And here's why..."
Yeah. Start with that and back it up with the numbers presented here. You'll do just fine.