Carlmont High parents get an education in drugs

Parents of Carlmont High students were back in school Tuesday night, getting a lesson in Narcotics 101 from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

About 100 parents attended the presentation by Sgt. Leo Capovilla, who spoke for more than two hours about the various drugs available to high school students today, how teenagers get their hands on drugs and how adults can tell if  a child is using.

Sgt. Capovilla shows parents an eight-ounce bag of marijuana. (Photo: Daniel Bohm)

“A lot of parents say, ‘It’s not my kid,’” Capovilla told the group. “A good cop recognizes what kid it is, and a good parent does the same thing.”

Armed with exhibits of just about every drug for parents to see, Capovilla, along with some sheriff’s deputies, discussed the most widely used narcotics in San Mateo County — marijuana, methamphetamine and prescription medication.

Capovilla estimated that 40 percent of California high school students use marijuana regularly, which means at least every other day. He said the availability of medical marijuana cards in the state is a contributing factor.

For sting operations, Capovilla has obtained multiple medical marijuana cards without the proper documentation. “If I could (lie) my way through, so could you, so could your son, so could your daughter,” he said.

Capovilla often joked with the somewhat-uneasy crowd, drawing laughs during an otherwise unnerving presentation. Some parents said they were there trying to learn what their children may be doing, while others hoped to find out what the police are doing to curb drug use.

“I wish you guys were here — schools are supposed to be safe,” one mother said, to which Capovilla quickly replied: “Why am I responsible for your kids? Parents rely on police, they rely on school staff… being a parent is a full-time job.”

Capovilla explained that law enforcement does not have the resources to be on campuses or to run sting operations at schools. Carlmont High serves Belmont and San Carlos; the San Carlos Police Department recently had to shut its doors and hand over enforcement to the Sheriff’s Department because of budget problems. Besides, he said, some schools don’t welcome a regular police presence.

After the presentation parents had time to get a closer look at the drug displays. (Photo: Daniel Bohm)

There is a lot that parents can do to help their children, he said. One example is with prescription drugs, which are often the most readily available narcotics for high school students and a huge problem in San Mateo County, according to Capovilla.

“Everyone in this room has a vault in their houses. Narcotics in the medicine cabinet equal dollars on the street,” he said. “Narcotics in the medicine cabinet should be treated like a loaded gun.”

Some parents came looking for tactics to check up on their kids. One mother explained that she reads her daughter’s text messages after her daughter goes to bed. A father asked if he could have his dog trained to smell drugs in his house or on his child, to which one officer joked, “for $10,000, I can hook you up.”

Ultimately it is about knowing your child, communicating and being honest with yourself Capovilla said. “Know what your kids are doing. I hear parents say, ‘I have to trust my daughter’—give me a … break!”

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