Concerns over PreVenture — a program that evaluates a student’s personality to reduce drug and alcohol use — have escalated during the past few months among trustees in the North Shore Board of Education. After a long discussion at the July 5 public meeting that focused on whether to approve the implementation of the program, the board decided to table it.
“I have concerns about kids being profiled about their predilection that’s based on a survey,” said Trustee David Ludmar. “I’m not only concerned about profiling, but also [students] being identified by their peers, other parents, coaches, and faculty members.”
The program, which is based in Canada, has never been used by any school district in the U.S. Former Superintendent Dr. Ed Melnick proposed the idea to the board earlier this year as something to consider for the district’s students.
Ludmar said he understands that the community is seeking ways to deal with this “crisis,” but he doesn’t believe that this program is the answer. “I don’t think that the appropriate response is necessarily ‘because we have a crisis, let’s try something that’s disproven,’” he explained.
Board Vice President Sara Jones said this provides a “tremendous” opportunity for the district to combat substance abuse. “This is not a company that’s looking to make money on us,” she said. “They’re clear that they work on a non-profit status, and it’s a group that has come up with a program that has some measureable results, which is very hard to do.”
Jones added that she doesn’t get the impression that PreVenture labels children. She believes that the program instead provides a chance for the district to help students cope with issues such as anxiety and impulsivity.
“This is business that schools are in all the time,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to help our students. This is a particular method that’s going to go after some things that kids need help with that could devastate them when they get older.”
Trustee Marianne Russo said this program would only “pigeon hole” students while putting their information out to the public. “I have huge concerns that we would do more damage than good,” she said. “I’m concerned that we could be in violation of privacy laws and the transmission of data. I am not voting in favor of this under any circumstances based upon the limited information that we have to date.”
Both Interim Superintendent Robert Chlebicki and Jones explained that all student data is private.
Trustee Joanna Commander said that while the board should do more research on as to whether the program publicizes information about children, the district should somehow include it. “It’s been a very successful program and I think we should be doing all we can to find out more about this,” she said.
After PreVenture’s counselors identify the risk factors, children would participate in different workshops in the district that cater to their problems.
“I have no problem with that,” Ludmar said, “I think that would benefit student’s development and behavior, but to stamp someone as an at-risk kid, to me, that’s where it crosses the line.”
The board will revisit this discussion during their next board meeting during the 2017-2018 school year.