Students Under Pressure, Under Fire, Under the Circumstances: A multipart series on local youth in peril, Part 3
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This series addresses the environment, actions, and consequences of Woodlands area youth acting on and reacting to pressures external and self-created, and their resulting responses that adversely affect them and those around them. If you are – or know of – a local youth in need of assistance, Woodlands Online encourages you to seek help from the proper resources discussed in these articles. While the quotes of others are directly transcribed, the views expressed by the author of this series may not necessarily represent those of Woodlands Online or its staff.]
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Residents – parents, students, and the general public alike – are still reeling from the drug-related death of two teenagers at the end of the recent school year. As the new school year prepares to open in mere days, questions still swirl around what happened, why, and how to confront the issues of fentanyl, suicide, and the unrelenting pressures that students are placed under.
Woodlands Online was able to ask some questions of Sheriff Rand Henderson’s Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Because the investigation into the deaths is still ongoing, being led by this law enforcement agency, certain particulars of the incident could not be discussed. However, here is the interview provided by Lt. Scott Spencer of MCSO.
It appears that the MCSO handles drug-related cases in The Woodlands and Montgomery County, with the presumption that any on-campus incidents fall under the jurisdiction of CISD Police. What types of cases involving students/minors and drugs fall under MCSO's jurisdiction?
Any cases involving juveniles can be worked by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Mainly, our focus is on crimes that occur off-campus as the school district police handle investigations on campus. There have been times when we have been asked to assist due to the complexity, and nature of resources required to investigate the crime. We work as force multipliers with all law enforcement agencies to keep our community and especially our children safe.
Is there a particular department in the Sheriff's Office that has dedicated personnel for these issues? If so, are they active/proactive in the community and how?
When Sheriff Henderson was elected Sheriff, he established the Community Policing model throughout all of Montgomery County. This is an essential piece of the Sheriff’s Office's outlook on policing, and its application has a proven history of success. Additionally, he implemented the Precinct Model which places patrol Deputies and Detectives under a single Captain responsible for one of three geographical areas of the county: The Woodlands Township, West County, and East County. This structure provided supervisors and managers at all levels immediate access to the appropriate resources needed to address community initiatives and criminal investigations. The results of this integration have had a swift impact on the cohesion between different units and have fostered an atmosphere to accomplish Strategic Goal #1: reduce crime and the fear of crime. The only other division we have is our SVU (Special Victims Unit), which works with numerous other law enforcement agencies and nonprofits to deal with sexual-related crimes involving children.
How well do the different agencies in Montgomery County work together in pursuing these cases?
Sheriff Henderson is a big supporter and believer in force multipliers and synergy. Stephen Covey [the famed American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker whose most popular book was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People] said, “The whole (law enforcement/community) is greater than the sum of its parts.” We work as a team to augment each other and ensure our mission, goals and constitutional requirements are met. We have an excellent relationship with Conroe ISD PD and work closely with them on any issues or criminal activity involving students or campuses.
The Woodlands, and by extension Montgomery County, is often referred to as being in a 'bubble' where frequently outside issues don't necessarily affect us as elsewhere (lockdowns being a key example). Does such a bubble, if it exists, help or harm the issue of drugs in our school systems or in the hands of minors?
While the Woodlands is not surrounded by a wall or bubble, it is unique in its design. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office’s partnerships with other law enforcement agencies have created a force multiplier when dealing with criminal activity. While this partnership is effective The Woodlands community is not immune to drugs and crime. Some of these crimes are based on the personal choices of our residents which has and could lead to tragedy while others are crimes of opportunity perpetrated on our citizens. We are committed to Sheriff Henderson’s strategic goal of reducing crime and the fear of crime and are continuously evaluating our efforts and approaches to crime trends and surges. Currently, Captain Holifield and his team are targeting the catalytic converter thefts that have plagued our county and working with every possible entity and resource to cohesively deal with this crime. Since January 1, we have made about 100 arrests on crimes stemming from or related to catalytic converter theft. These efforts are being duplicated all over the county by other Sheriff’s Office precincts.
What do you feel are some of the contributing factors of students and minors turning to drugs, especially in this age of opiates where literally one extra grain could kill them?
There are various and not one particular. Most of it has to deal with the kids lacking the coping skills to properly deal with the stresses they have. They turn to substance abuse, technology, and other vices that aren’t healthy as a coping mechanism.
What are the legal, civil, and criminal ramifications of drug use and/or distribution in The Woodlands and Montgomery County? What charges can be brought and what are the penalties, and what are the differences between charges for juveniles and adults?
It depends on the drug and the amount in possession, but anyone who sells drugs of any kind is charged to a higher degree than someone in possession of drugs. For example, marijuana and some prescription pills is a Class B misdemeanor, while fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth are automatic felonies for possessing it.
What can parents/teachers be on the lookout for in regards to signs of drug use?
Look for shifts in mood and personality. Changes in their everyday behavior like locking doors, changing friends, and secretive use of their phone. Maybe their hygiene has gotten worse or there are indicators of use. Their physical health has changed. Depending on the drugs they could be more tired or lethargic or extremely energetic. They could have sores in their mouth or nose along with nose bleeds. Most importantly, have a conversation with your child even if it’s a difficult one. You know your child best.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office encourages parents and concerned citizens to contact them at any time with questions or observations. The non-emergency line is 936-760-5800.
In the next installment of Students Under Pressure, Under Fire, Under the Circumstances, we will delve into the statistics and issues surrounding youth suicide.