An Open Letter To The Rye Neck School District
I am writing this around the same time of the two year anniversary in which I lost a good friend of mine to abuse of prescription drugs. Brandon was a true “friend to everybody”, he was an active member of the Mamaroneck community and was widely loved. This love did not only extend from Mamaroneck and their school district, the school in which he attended, he was loved by dozens of Rye Neck Students as well, I was one of them. His funeral was packed with Rye Neck Students, I was there. Mamaroneck High School kids, as well as Rye Neck Kids, all recognized a sort of tacit agreement. This could never happen again. We understood that. However, the reality of agreements like this is that pretty simple. Without pairing them with lasting education they will never work. All of us got older one by one and with age comes a fading influence. This is where the two school districts show a drastic difference. After Brandon’s passing the Mamaroneck School district offered widespread support for the grieving paired with education on the abuse of prescription drugs. This education was lasting and is still being exposed widespread to kids in the Mamaroneck School District. Posters can be found throughout the campus detailing the real danger of these drugs. They had a class reaction to the tragedy, and I applaud their school district. However, when it comes to my own school district I can’t say that there are any similarities between the two schools when it comes to how they handled the tragedy. My school was alerted of the tragedy pretty early on, that is undeniable. He passed away during our midterm week and many of us needed to reschedule our midterms so that we would be able to attend the funeral. However, unlike Mamaroneck, the student body was not publicly offered support in any way. I can’t lie and say I was not privately offered support after I asked to switch the date of my midterm, however for someone who was so loved by the whole community I wondered why the school had not offered support to everybody in a more public manner. I understand, Brandon was not a “Rye Neck” student, however, he was close and connected to so many students within the district. I knew when I sat down to write this I was going to have to defend this fact, and that defense came pretty quickly with a quick google search of his name. Over 1,000 people signed a local petition asking for Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum to change the name of one of our local parks to the ‘Brandon Wesley Memorial Park”. I challenge you as the reader to research that petition, in which the signees are public information, to go and count how many of those 1,000 people were students at Rye Neck. It’s pretty overwhelming. However, I am not writing this to attack the way Rye Neck did or did not support student’s after his death, I am writing this for the lack of education offered to students about the dangers of prescription drugs following his death. Let’s take a look at the facts first. From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people have died in the U.S. from abuse of opioids according to the CDC. This number doesn’t even begin to account for depressants or stimulants which are responsible for an additional 409,534 deaths since January of the year 2000. These numbers are stunning. Prescription drugs are right behind Marijuana and Alcohol as the third most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older. This is a widespread epidemic anyway you look at it. Rye Neck has long sponsored a student-run program known as SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). Their response to this epidemic is foolish. Not once in my 4 years at Rye Neck High School did I ever see any type of poster or event targeted at educating students about abusing prescription drugs. What I saw instead was a propaganda filled week-long campaign against marijuana. Posters were everywhere, you couldn’t miss them. The school even decided to hand out Hawaiian leis to all the students who can name one negative fact about Marijuana. Let’s check the facts again, compared to the 592,534 deaths I listed before Marijuana has accounted for a grand total of 0 deaths. That’s right, 0. A drug that is widely used in many states for medical purposes and in some states recreational is the prime target of Rye Neck’s SADD club. The opioid crisis has recently been linked to a two-year decrease in our countries life expectancy. I’ll rephrase that just to emphasize its severity. It is such a widespread epidemic that enough Americans are dying younger to bring our whole countries calculated span of life down a couple of years. That is a scary statistic and without proper education, it is only going to get worse. I challenge the Rye Neck School District, as well as their SADD program to increase and emphasize education on the dangers of the prescription drugs. And I challenge you as the reader to stand with me in challenging the school district as something like this can potentially help save people. Brandon and those other 593,534 people didn’t die for nothing.