Know the Facts: Synthetic Marijuana
This important safety message is being sent to you on behalf of FBISD Police Chief David Rider and the Department of College and Career Readiness.
Like most parents, we all want to know what we can do to protect our children. October is when we have traditionally observed Red Ribbon Week – a nation-wide prevention awareness campaign regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. As we move into this month, we wanted to bring your attention to a particularly disturbing trend that we are seeing in the greater Houston area.
As you may have seen in the media, the drugs that children and teenagers abuse now are not the drugs of a generation ago. While some children are using alcohol and marijuana, there are other substances that they are using as well. Recently the news has shared many stories about synthetic marijuana, or fake weed. Synthetic marijuana in reality is very different from marijuana, but our children may not know that.
“Spice” is one of many street names for synthetic marijuana. It is made from dried plant material, spices or herbal mixtures. This material is then sprayed with man-made chemicals developed in unregulated places such as labs, garages and basement. Like marijuana, these chemicals bind to the receptors in the brain that are also activated by the chemical in marijuana, and it is smoked. As these man-made chemicals, and each variation of them, become illegal, similar compounds are created that circumvent the law.
Children are using these drugs because they are easy to get. They are sold at gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, and on the internet. They are cheaper than marijuana, and originally they were not detected in urine screens. They are believed to be “natural,” but they are far from it. They are marketed as safe, with names such as K2, Spice, Blueberry Haze and Serenity, with a label that says “not for human consumption.” In fact, many packets are labeled as potpourri. The biggest issue is that anyone who uses these synthetic drugs can never know how much chemical or what type of chemical has been sprayed on the materials.
Users report a variety of effects. Some of the severe side effects are: rapid heart rate and palpitations, vomiting, seizures, confusion, flashbacks, hallucinations, psychosis, and suicidal ideation. All of these conditions need to be treated at an emergency room, and may not go away immediately. This is a serious and harmful trend.
So what can parents do? Remember, you are the first line of defense for your children, and they typically do not want to disappoint you. The primary factors that help protect your children from the harm of the toxic drug culture are: open and honest conversations about narcotic use, providing unconditional positive reinforcement, and encouraging them to be involved in school and community activities.
For more information, review the attached materials on synthetic marijuana. Please know that we are all working together to keep our students safe and to bring awareness to them and to you about the dangers of drug abuse. We appreciate your continued support as we help our students prepare for their bright futures ahead.
FBISD Chief of Police
Director, College and Career Readiness
Federal and Special Programs Department
Lantern Lane Choir and Drama Club are having a popcorn fundraiser. You may select any flavor popcorn you like; snack bags are $1.25 and regular size bags are $2.00 each. Orders are being taken between October 6-16. Money is collected at the time of the order. If paying by check, please make it out to Lantern Lane Choir.
Popcorn orders arrive Tuesday, October 27th. If you have a large order, please make arrangements to pick it up by 4pm. Due to new nutritional guidelines, the choir is no longer able to sell popcorn on campus. There will be NO extra popcorn bags available so be sure to order what you like while you can!
Contact Mrs. Pamela Williams at 281-634-0486 or Pamela.Williams@fortbendisd.com
Although National Attendance Awareness Month has come to an end, our District-wide effort to get children to school and engaged in their learning is not slowing down. From creating “buzz” on social media to sharing messages with parents and students, our campuses have worked hard to create awareness and promote good attendance habits that will continue to help our students throughout the rest of the year – and beyond.
Over the next year, we will continue our efforts to make students, parents and community members aware of why Attendance Counts. Any amount of time of missed instruction can add up, and an individual student’s absences can easily affect the entire class. It is my hope that we can work together – as a community – to let students know they are missing out when they miss class. Like everything we do, it will take a true partnership to spread this important message.
With that in mind, I would like to update you on two key partnerships our Board of Trustees approved this week to provide our students with a strong foundation for their future beyond Fort Bend ISD:
• The approval of an agreement with Houston Community College that outlines our ongoing commitment to provide students in the HCC service area with multiple dual credit and college prep courses. These courses will be offered free of charge to students who live in the HCC district and will allow students to receive high school and college credits at the same time.
• The approval of an agreement with Wharton County Junior College that establishes the College Connections pilot program. This voluntary program will be offered at Kempner and Ridge Point High Schools beginning this fall, and will give students the opportunity to receive free guidance through the ApplyTexas application process, and if needed, vouchers to take the Texas Success Initiative Assessment. The best part about this program is that upon completion, students will have everything they need to enroll at Wharton County Junior College next August. Even students who do not plan to attend WCJC can benefit from the chance to familiarize themselves with the college admissions process, and can use the ApplyTexas application to apply to any public university in Texas and other colleges.
Our Board of Trustees is working hard to ensure that all children are given opportunities to reach their full potential. In the last couple of weeks, our administration has provided Board members with some very informative updates in regards to College and Career Readiness, and Career and Technical Education. In both reports, staff shared significant improvements in programming and services provided to students by our hard working campus staff. Most importantly, the reports highlighted ways in which we are collaborating with our local business leaders to develop and execute well thought-out plans to ensure students prepare for futures beyond what they can imagine by offering rigorous courses that can often result in students earning job certification based on the skills they have learned. As an organization, FBISD is committed to preparing students for whatever comes next – a living wage, college coursework or, in many cases, a combination of both.
This conversation will continue in October, as the administration makes recommendations for the $59 million dollars in CTE improvements included in the 2014 Bond Program. We want our students to be both career and college ready, and staff members are working to increase access and equity to our CTE programs. We look forward to discussing this with the Board this month, and the community in November.
In closing, I want to be the first to wish all of our campus administrators a happy Principals Month. Governor Greg Abbott has proclaimed the month of October 2015 Principals Month in honor of all principals and assistant principals. These campus leaders play a critical role in our District, working directly with teachers, students, parents and other campus staff to create effective and supportive learning environments. Principals, thank you for your leadership… and for all you do for Fort Bend ISD. We appreciate you!
Things get a little hectic on the roads during the school year: buses are everywhere, children on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, and hurried parents are trying to drop off their kids before work.
As more and more students gear up for heading back to school, Fort Bend ISD Police would like to remind all to slow down in school zones. We want everyone to reach their destinations safely.
• NO distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of having an accident.
• Stay alert. Don’t rush into and out of driveways. Expect pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially around schools and in neighborhoods.
• Watch for bikes. Children on bicycles are unpredictable.
• Brake for buses. Red flashing lights means the bus is loading or unloading.
• Watch for crossing guards. Rain or shine they help students cross busy intersections.
Protect New Teen Drivers
Accidents involving teenage drivers spike as the new school year begins, especially during arrival and dismissal times. Talk to your teenager if he or she will be driving to school, and help them understand why it is important to follow all traffic rules without distractions. Cell phone use during driving is especially dangerous.
Sharing the road safely with child pedestrians
All drivers need to recognize the special safety needs of pedestrians, especially those who are children. Elderly, disabled, and younger students are among the most frequent victims in auto-pedestrian accidents. Generally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections; however, regardless of the rules of the road or right-of-way, you as a driver are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians.
Chief David Rider
Follow me on Twitter: @FBISDChiefRider
On Monday your children arrived ready to learn, greeted by warm smiles and enthusiastic FBISD staff members. Some of our younger students seemed shy and timid, as some of their parents gathered for the Boo Hoo Breakfast. Some of our older students appeared a bit reluctant to say goodbye to their summer breaks, while their moms and dads raced to celebrate the new year over breakfast with friends. Our schools were filled with excitement as more than 73,000 students began a new school year at one of our 75 campuses.
District administrators visited each campus Monday to witness the flurry of activity, and offer assistance and encouragement to students, teachers, and parents. We know that the first day can be hectic, but I could not be more appreciative of the way our entire community joined together to make the first day of school run as smoothly as possible. We know that things are far from perfect on the first day of school – but as I reflected on the day, I found many reasons to celebrate.
As has become our tradition in FBISD, I want to share my gratitude and a few thoughts about What Went Right on the first day of school.
- Our technology staff began the deployment of 34,925 new student email accounts. This is in addition to the 9,906 employee email accounts that were migrated to a new platform this summer.
- Our technology staff also deployed 4,850 new teacher laptops that will help our teachers provide a more engaging classroom environment and be able to perform their work in a more efficient way.
- Our child nutrition employees served 34,247 meals to students on the first day of school, providing necessary nourishment to our students. Our students cannot learn if they are hungry, and these employees serve more than 8 million meals each year, ensuring stomachs are kept full.
- Our Fort Bend ISD Police Department covered our entire District with extra patrols to ensure student safety on and off campus. Our police department includes 54 sworn officers, and most of them are School Resource Officers, assigned to campuses to build relationships with students and keep them safe. We also have more than 100 crossing guards to assist our walkers each morning and afternoon.
- Our dedicated transportation department staff members began the day bright and early to drive 36,000 students to school, and then transported them back home at the end of the day. It takes more than 350 bus drivers to drive several hundred routes every day – and they are committed to getting your students to and from their campuses safely.
- Madden Elementary School Principal Pamela Brown and her staff members welcomed more than 800 students into our District’s 46th elementary school in the Aliana Community. Brown and her staff put in countless hours to get the new school ready for its students, and that work paid off yesterday.
- Students entered clean buildings across our 75 campuses, thanks to our maintenance and facilities staff members who provided custodial and maintenance services to more than 11.5 million square feet of building space in preparation for the return of our students.
- Our more than 10,000 employees started the school year with renewed enthusiasm, ready to inspire and equip our students to pursue futures beyond what they can imagine. The first day of school is always an exciting time for our teachers, and they are already hard at work to make sure that all of their students reach their full potential. We also witnessed the professionalism and commitment of our office workers, who answered parent phone calls and guided them to the information they needed.
I share all of this to thank you for your partnership with our District, and your support and patience as we work out the glitches that occur during the beginning of the year. We are committed to making your FBISD experience exceptional.
I know that my list is short, and that there are many other positive stories to share about the first day of school. Please share your first day of school experience with me on Twitter by using the hashtag #FBISDWWR (What Went Right!). We are looking forward to a great year!
For more information about Fort Bend ISD, you can always visit www.fortbendisd.com. Thank you for choosing Fort Bend ISD!
It is extremely important that all of our students be present and engaged in their learning in order for them to achieve and grow. It is our hope that Fort Bend ISD’s new attendance procedures will convey the importance of daily attendance while also supporting students and their families.
What changed for students?
You may be aware that the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2398, which changed the state’s attendance laws and created a new civil process governing truancy proceedings. This means student truancy proceedings will be moved to a civil court, rather than a criminal court. However, it is important to understand that parents who contribute to nonattendance can still be subject to criminal prosecution, as that part of the law remained intact.
Our District has worked hard to implement measures to keep students in class and out of the court process altogether. As required by law, a truancy referral will be sent to the court after a student reaches 10 or more unexcused absences in a six-month period, and only after other interventions at the campus and District levels have been attempted. Though we will continue to use computers to track student attendance and trigger some actions when a student reaches a certain number of absences, we will also be adding staffing at our high schools to ensure accuracy and provide more personal interactions with our families.
Please note the new attendance procedures for 2015-2016 below:
• Upon any student absence, an automated phone call will go to the parent/guardian the same day.
• Upon the student’s return, he or she will have five school days to provide a note of excuse for any absence to the school’s attendance clerk. Details about excusable absences can be found in the student handbook.
• Upon the third unexcused absence in a four-week period or the fifth total unexcused absence, a truancy warning letter will be mailed to the parent at the home address on record with the school, and Truancy Prevention Measures will be implemented by the campus assistant principal. Campus staff will have discretion on how they can reach out and provide services, counseling, and other interventions to students and their families, prior to a student’s 10th unexcused absence and referral to the court.
• Upon the fifth total unexcused absence, a Truancy Diversion Program (TDP) Letter will be sent to the parent/guardian. In addition, an automated phone call will go to the parent/guardian the week prior to the scheduled TDP meeting. During the TDP, parents and students will sign a Student Attendance Contract.
• Following an invitation to TDP, the parent/guardian and student will meet with the campus assistant principal and any relevant staff to develop a Truancy Action Plan. This provides another opportunity for staff to assist students and their families, inquiring about reasons for their absences, and connecting them to services that may be available.
• If a student accrues ten unexcused absences in a six-month period, whether the student/parent has attended TDP or not, a truancy referral will be sent to the appropriate authority, unless the student is eligible for one of the four exceptions under the law. If truancy is the result of pregnancy, foster care, homelessness, or if the student is his or her household’s primary income earner, a referral will not be made. Truancy prevention and support services will continue to be offered at the campus level. To learn more, go to fortbendisd.com.
FBISD will share additional information about its attendance procedures as we begin the 2015-2016 school year. As we implement these new practices, we will also be launching an awareness campaign this fall to educate students, parents, staff, and community members about the importance of attendance. Perhaps, even more importantly, we will continue to explore ways that we can partner with the community to increase student engagement, connecting students to their learning so that they want to attend school.